The Disney World resorts list features a staggering array of accommodations, and our Port Orleans resort review will take you deep into the Riverside section of the massive value resort. It’s where bayou meets southern hospitality, taking guests back to a simpler time, where the frenzy of daily life recedes and simple quiet pervades.
You’ll find that Port Orleans is divided into two unique sections, Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. The more formal Magnolia Bend is reminiscent of plantation mansions with elaborate gardening and elegant pathways. Alligator Bayou brings you to well, the bayou, with marshy landscaping and more rustic buildings. No matter where you decide to stay, you’ll find yourself immersed in Louisiana living.
Table of contents
- Our Port Orleans Riverside Resort Review: First Impressions
- Finding our Room at Port Orleans Resort Riverside
- Port Orleans Resort Review: Riverside Rooms
- Port Orleans Resort Riverside Room Views and Configurations
- Things to Know Before Staying at Port Orleans Resort Riverside
- Port Orleans Resort Review: Dining
- What Activities Does Port Orleans Resort Riverside Have on Tap?
Our Port Orleans Riverside Resort Review: First Impressions
We stepped off the Magical Express into Port Orleans Riverside (not to be confused with its “French Quarter” counterpart) around 3:30 in the afternoon. It had been a long flight in from Portland, Oregon, and we were ready to rest for a bit before our dinner reservation at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. We had checked in through the My Disney Experience app, so there was no need to really visit the lobby except for one small thing. We had no idea where to go. In the sprawling bayou of Port Orleans, the walkways twist and turn and the buildings look much the same.
We were glad we made the stop for another reason: the décor. If you want to experience an upscale but down on the bayou vibe, this is the place. The lobby was elegant with a tall ceiling adorned with a gold chandelier. We grabbed our map but did pause a bit just to admire the architecture and Disney touches.
When we walked to the back doors of the lobby, we realized just how big Port Orleans Resort at Riverside is. From here, the first thing you see is the boardwalk and bridge surrounding a large body of water.
A Port Orleans Resort review wouldn’t be complete without noting how peaceful this area is. The sound of water lapping gently against the shore brings you straight to the bayou.
Finding our Room at Port Orleans Resort Riverside
We looked at our map and attempted to locate our room. It became clear rather quickly that we were in for a bit of a walk. Our room was in the Alligator Bayou section. This area is located at the western edge of the property, which also happens to be one of the farthest areas from the lobby.
While we could have meandered our way outside, we instead took a long hallway off the left of the lobby and passed the gift shop, a couple restaurants, and then the food court. It was good to know where these things were located for the next day.
Once outside, we headed up a bridge and past the large spinning waterwheel. At this point, we were walking along the Sassagoula River and catching glimpses of Ol’Man Island. My husband was particularly excited to find out he could fish there as well as visit the main pool for this section of the resort.
After walking for a bit, we came up to a quiet pool and bar. From there, we got lost, not once, but twice. Luckily for us, a fellow guest noticed us wandering and pointed us in the right direction.
Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be a one-time occurrence. With the tall bayou plants and almost identical buildings, we continued to get turned around during most of our adventures to and from the room. We did finally figure our way around, but by then, our stay was coming to an end.
After finding our room initially, we took a few minutes to settle in. There wasn’t much time as we had plans to head directly to the parks (of course!) Lucky for us, a bus stop was right off the corner of our building, but since we were due to meet family from Connecticut for dinner, we decided to try Lyft to see if we could get there faster. We were picked up in minutes and walking through the gates in no time.
Port Orleans Resort Review: Riverside Rooms
When it comes to the rooms at Port Orleans, you can expect a pleasant experience. Port Orleans Riverside rooms size up in the middle of the range when comparing Disney’s moderate resorts, but even with two queen size beds and three adults sharing the space, we never felt crowded. Much of the spacious feel can be attributed to the layout. In the bathroom, a large curtain separates the bedroom from two sinks and a large vanity so many people can get ready at once.
The vanity leads to the toilet and shower in a separate room. The tub shower combo is big, and the water pressure is great, something you don’t always find in a hotel. The Alligator Bayou rooms are rustic in décor, with a neutral palette brought to life by liberal splashes of blue. It might not scream “bayou” to you, but then again, you might not really want it to.
We found the beds to be very interesting with frames that resembled rough-hewn logs. The two chairs and a small table in the room were made the same way. In the Magnolia Bend section of Port Orleans Resort, Disney forgoes the rustic side of the bayou for a more upscale charm. It’s a bridge of sorts, leading over to Port Orleans French Quarter, the sister side of the resort themed to resemble a distinctively elegant plantation vibe.
In Magnolia Bend, the rooms are decorated in a similar neutral and blue palette, but the furnishings are more refined. There is also the option to book a specially-themed royal room if you or your little one would like to sleep like a princess or prince. With the exception of décor, rooms in both sections offer up the same in amenities, space and comfort.
We found that conveniences were on par for a Disney resort. The room contains a mini fridge and a coffee maker, as well as some complimentary coffee. There has been much discussion about Disney’s new approach to providing toiletries at moderate resorts. Shampoo, body wash, and conditioner dispensers were located on the wall within easy reach. Contrary to many popular opinions, we found it added to the convenience factor. As someone who needs four of the tiny conditioner bottles just for one shower, it was great to have the option to use a large amount.
The rooms in the Alligator Bayou of Port Orleans Riverside are spacious and clean. For our Port Orleans Resort review, we stayed in a room with two queen size beds as well as a pull-down child-size bed. This ingenious little option is great for families as it folds up underneath the tv to stay out of the way when not in use.
We slept three adults in our Alligator Bayou room at Port Orleans Resort Riverside, and we were all very comfortable and felt like we had plenty of room.
Port Orleans Resort Riverside Room Views and Configurations
Room views come in a few different configurations. Standard view rooms provide a generous view of the many parking lots. It’s great if you’ve driven and like to have your car in sight, but if you’re not keen on breaking the Disney bubble of immersion, opt for a garden view room. The cost isn’t much more, but you’ll look out over the tree-lined grounds and experience more of the peaceful feel of mellow bayou life. For our Port Orleans Resort review, we stayed in a garden-view room and enjoyed stepping outside into the “bayou”.
For the top-tier view, consider a pool-view room. These port-sized windows give you a glimpse of water, and may also provide a child-size pull down sleeper to accommodate up to 5 guests. However, since each room has a window instead of sliding or French doors, and the door to the room opens onto an outdoor walkway instead of a patio or balcony, your room view may not be as much of a consideration. This would have been a drawback for me if we had spent more time in the room, but since we were always on the go, it didn’t matter much.
If you are considering making a room request, we highly recommend checking out the bus stop order and selecting an area of the property that coincides best with your particular plans and party. We were located near the first bus stop and found this to be convenient for traveling to and from the parks. Others, however, may prefer to be closer to the lobby, so they don’t have to walk as far to reach the restaurants. Another thing to note, is that rooms do not have balconies.
Room configurations are on par with several of Disney’s resorts in this tier. Most rooms offer two queen-sized beds. A number of rooms also add in a child-sized pull-down sleeper to accommodate a fifth guest of smaller size. One thing that we really like about Port Orleans is that several rooms are dog friendly. While we, ourselves have never traveled to Disney World with our dogs, we can see where this might be a great option for those who like to travel with their family but not visit the parks.
Overall, we enjoyed the rooms at Port Orleans. We rated them a 3.9 on a scale of 5 in our Port Orleans Resort review, detracting for the long walk to restaurants and lobby.
Things to Know Before Staying at Port Orleans Resort Riverside
The first thing I feel everyone needs to know before staying at a Disney moderate resort is that the Disney transportation options may be limited. Unlike deluxe resorts that often offer more than one mode of transport, the moderate resorts are served primarily by buses. Due to the vast size of Port Orleans Riverside, that means your bus is going to stop at multiple bus stations. During peak times, you may have to board a mostly full bus if your stop is at the end of the route. If the bus is full when it reaches you, it will drive right by. As a result, you may wait longer to board a bus during peak travel times.
On the positive side, Port Orleans does use tandem buses accommodating twice the number of people in a single vehicle. With transportation in mind, we selected a room near the west depot, which is the first pick up and drop off bus station at the resort. When booking a room, you can suggest a preferred room or building. Requesting a room may be very important if you have limited mobility. At Port Orleans Riverside, the buildings are all two stories, with no elevators. If stairs are an issue for you, booking a room on the first floor is
a necessity. Another thing to keep in mind is that Port Orleans Riverside is very large, and difficult to navigate. We became lost many times during our stay, and we had to use the resort map on the My Disney Experience App just to find our way. Unfortunately, the signs, although plentiful, are not extremely helpful.
Port Orleans Resort Review: Dining
On the up side, Port Orleans Riverside dining options are plentiful. The gift shop features on-the-go snack options such as candy, Rice Crispy Treats and such. You can fill your refillable mug here and gather various sundries as well.
For the real dining action, though, you’ll want to head to The Riverside Mill Food Court. Here, counter service restaurants feature six different dining areas with variety of offerings, such as a meat carving station, bakery, grill, pizza and pasta, and more. No matter your appetite, you’re likely to find something to your liking, and the menu changes throughout the day. For slightly more upscale dining, try Boatwright’s Dining Hall. Their menu features delicious southern entrees such as jambalaya and shrimp and grits. Port Orleans Riverside also boasts two evening bars and a late night pizza delivery service delivered right to your room!
What Activities Does Port Orleans Resort Riverside Have on Tap?
For activities within the resort, there are many options. Riverside Resort offers a small waterpark for people of all ages and includes a water slide. On the property are five other more low-key pools if lounging by the water is more your scene.
If you’re a little waterlogged, head to the onsite arcade or rent a bike or surrey to ride around the boardwalk and pathways. It’s an amazingly pleasant way to take in the scenery and really experience the backwoods bayou feel.
You can also take the kiddos to the playground reserved exclusively for resort guests. If you’re into exercise, enjoy a jog along the jogging path, or stop by for some early morning yoga by the pool. If you and your family want a more authentic Bayou experience, try cane pole fishing at the Fishin’ Hole in Ol’ Man Island. If you enjoy this and want to delve deeper into your fishing skills, join a guided catch and release boat trip down the river. You can sign up at Riverside Levee Marina.
The first night when we walked to the lobby in the evening, I was excited to see two large draft horses waiting patiently for someone to ride their carriages. As a horse owner going through horse withdrawals, I was very tempted to take a carriage ride, but even though my husband agreed to do it with me, I decided to save the money for something else (maybe another chocolate caramel Mickey-shaped apple, please).
A Final Word on Our Port Orleans Resort Review
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Port Orleans Riverside! We were more than satisfied with our room and the amenities the resort featured.
Throughout our stay, we enjoyed food from the counter service restaurants in the food court. The variety was great, for all meals and it was convenient to have so many options without going into the parks. This is a great step up over the deluxe resorts.
In the evenings, we spent time walking around Port Orleans Resort and enjoyed the weather. The tall plant landscaping gives this resort a private feel, no matter how many people are about. The only downsides were the massive size and crowded transportation options. We overcame these by using Lyft during part of our stay. Despite the few drawbacks, we felt that Port Orleans Riverside offered a comfortable, relaxing, experience at a very affordable price, and we’d gladly stay here again on our next trip.
Have you stayed at Port Orleans Resort before? If so, let us know what you thought. Was there anything you would add?