This is an honest review of a two night stay at Disney World's Port Orleans Riverside Resort. I'm sharing with you all the details about what to expect at this moderate-level hotel at Walt Disney World and my review of whether it's worth it (and how to avoid overpaying).
Port Orleans Riverside Resort is located in Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It is labeled as a moderate-level resort, which is sandwiched in-between the higher-end deluxe resorts and the value resorts. If you love the thought of a New Orleans or Mardi Gras theme, this is a resort that you may want to consider on your trip. I'm going to go through my honest review and first reactions of this hotel so that you can get excited (or prevent any disappointment) from staying at this resort.
My review is based on knowing what to expect when you stay at a deluxe resort on Disney property. I will definitely say that my review may be slightly biased because if I can summarize my review, I was a bit disappointed.
Often, it Port Orleans Riverside Resort is called POR for short. We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside in November of 2019 for a quick weekend getaway (post-conference vacation).
We absolutely fell in love with the entire Disney World experience back in February of 2019, so we wanted to follow up our trip so we could experience some of the attractions we missed the first go 'round. Our goal was to stay on property so we had quick access to transportation as well as early and later entry to the parks.
In general, if I had to summarize our experience at Port Orleans Riverside in the Alligator Bayou (specifically room 2639), I would say that the rooms definitely needed an update. In addition, I was surprised that there was a curtain separating the sink area and a very small bathroom for the bathtub and toilet area. It honestly felt like a motel. The building that we stayed at also seemed set back really far away from the parking lot as well as the main food court.
What I also realized was I may have overpaid by double the amount because of our last minute reservation (two weeks prior to the stay), but was happily surprised when I found out it included the Quick Service Meal plan.
To give you a synopsis of my review, I don't think I'd be staying here again. If I did and had to stay in the Port Orleans area, I would gear my stay towards the Port Orleans French Quarter because that area seems to be more updated and lively.
History of Port Orleans Riverside
In order for you to appreciate and understand the basis of my review, I just wanted to give you some history on this resort.
It's grand opening was in 1992 when it was called Disney's Landing Resort. Eleven years later, it was renamed in 2001 as Port Orleans Riverside Resort which has been what it's been called ever sense.
Theme of Port Orleans Riverside
The grounds of Port Orleans Riverside roots displays southern culture at it's finest. The resort sprawls over 325 acres and has a little over 2,000 rooms on property. The architecture and lush grounds takes you back to the deepth south and makes you feel like you've been transported back in time.
Port Orleans Riverside theme brings back the feeling of the deep South. There is beautiful, green landscaping with magnolia trees everywhere. The architecture of the area is absolutely stunning from the outside, reminiscent of plantation homes in the deep South. This is a lush resort that resides against the Sassagoula River with generally reasonable prices year round.
There are two main areas of Disney's Riverside Resort which includes Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou.
Alligator Bayou was the area that we were in. It included rooms that have a small cottage feel. I honestly felt like it was a level above a motel. The linens and furniture are dark and seem rustic in nature.
Magnolia Bend includes gorgeous manor homes which appears definitely a level up from the Alligator Bayou areas. The Magnolia Bend has beautifully manicured landscaping which provides a more grand experience because it conveys the sense of being a mansion.
General Resort Pricing
Port Orleans Riverside Resort is rated by Disney as a moderate level resort. The pricing for this type of resort is reflective of allowing you to have a little more room than that of Disney Value resorts and a little less amenities, luxury and character in the rooms than that of deluxe resorts. It reminds me of a little more upscale room than a regular Motel 6 if I am being quite honest.
You'll definitely pay more during high season. If Port Orleans is a last resort for you in order to stay at on property at a Disney Resort, it's not a bad resort. I'm just saying that if you had an option, I would typically go for another option, especially for those who have kids.
How to Make a Decision on What Room to Choose for Port Orleans Riverside
Here's what you'll need to think about when choosing a room at Port Orleans Riverside.
2. Room Location
3. Room Type
4. Room view
My Experience in Pricing
When I was getting quoted room only pricing in November 2019 from Magical Vacations (typically someone who has some of the lowest deals), Port Orleans cost about $215 a night.
I had to cancel my reservation due to some circumstances for work, but those were fixed and I had to rebook. When I tried to rebook two weeks out, it was hard pressed finding a travel agent or a room on the Disney World website where I can stay on property.
After researching a few other places online, I was able to book on trip.com and paid about $358 a night. Initially, I knew I was overpaying by about $143 a night, which I thought would be my penalty for trying to book so last minute. To my suprise, I found out that my stay included the Quick Service Dining Plan, which meant we got 2 counter service meals and 2 snack credits for each day.
Don't discount last minute deals on these sites. I will say when I booked it, I did not see anywhere in the description that there was a meal plan tied to it, so that was very much a happy surprise staying at Port Orleans Riverside!
What is a good deal for Port Orleans Riverside?
If you are paying anywhere between $125 to $215 a night for Port Orleans, that would be an INCREDIBLE deal.
Port Orleans Riverside Room Types
POR has two types of rooms: Standard Rooms and Royal Guest Rooms. You'll find online that they generally also list out the type of view that your room will have. Generally, after picking the room type, you'll probably want to choose a room that has a view of a river it it is in your budget.
Considering that if your plans have you staying in the theme parks most of the day, this honestly might not be a big deal for you, so it may be wise to save some of that money so you can spend it inside the parks.
Port Orleans Riverside Standard Rooms
The standard rooms are a little over 300 square feet, and I felt like it was tiny for even both my husband and I staying there. You can choose a room with a king bed which will be a little more expensive or two queen beds with a fold down bed. If you don't mind being in close quarters with your family, this space might be for you.
There is a lot of room to store luggage underneath the bed:
Port Orleans Riverside Royal Guest Room
These rooms have a bigger surcharge than that of just upgrading to a king size bed. These rooms have a little more luxury, embedding storybook architecture and design with beautiful ornate decor. These rooms also are located with better views than most of the other rooms, which will give you more options for which way your rooms face, but for a hefty upcharge.
Parking and Transportation at Port Orleans Riverside
Parking is free for Port Orleans Riverside guests. Parking lots are located just outside of some of the buildings. For those that are staying in a building that is further back inside the resort, it may be a 50 yard trek to your resort room.
Transportation to the parks includes free bussing at four different stops around the resort areas as well as Riverside Mill. The bus transportation to and from Port Orleans Riverside are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Ferry boats depart every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and every 10 minutes from 4 to 11 p.m.
Port Orleans Riverside Sister Resort: Port Orleans French Quarters
The resort is connected to its sister resort called Port Orleans French Quarters. Port Orleans French Quarters appears to be a little more updated and contemporary compared to Port Orleans Riverside.
I also love that their food court has a small snack/coffee area where you can use a snack credit to get THREE beignets near the Sassagoula restaurant! You cannot get these at Port Orleans Riverside (at least not when I went searching for them). These are like fluffy and thicker donuts and so delicious!
Family Amenities, Activities and Pools at Port Orleans Riverside at Disney World
Pools at Port Orleans Riverside
While we didn't visit the pools in our visit in November (it was so cold), the pools that we visited didn't pull me in like the ones at Port Orleans French Quarter. At POR, the Ol' Man Island & Pools is made to look like a swimming hole, which includes waterfalls and a waterslide. It's about a 3.5 acre pool. It doesn't have a shallow end, but does offer a one foot deep end for little babies. The big pool is open from 7 o'clock in the morning until midnight. Life guards fluctuate from season to season.
There are also a few other pools scattered throughout the resort if you wanted to find a quiet pool away from families and kids.
Scattered next to the quiet pools are laundry machines that you can use to do your own laundry if you had a pile that was stacking up.
You could also rent bikes and take a fun stroll against the Sassagoula River at Riverside Levee Marina. The bikes available include bicycles, Surrey bikes, and quadricycles that can be rented by the hour daily. If you have a baby on your trip, you can rent baby bike seats along with training wheels.
On select days, you can also have your kids that are between the ages of four and twelve go on a fun two-hour Pirate Adventure Cruise. It costs around $40 per child and includes snack and treasure.
If you wanted to spend some money, there is a large arcade located at the main area called Riverside Mill called the Medicine Show Arcade that has over 70 games that is open 24 hours.
You can also for a fee get fun caricatures of the family with the artist that is there.
Horse Drawn Carriage Experiences
For another fee, you can go on a carriage ride for up to four adults, or two adults with three children. It costs about $45 for half an hour and you'll need to book in advance.
You can also go to a free river cruise down to Downtown Disney and return back to the resort at 11:30, which is the last launch back from Downtonw Disney to Port Orleans Riverside.
Campfires and Movies on the Lawn
These activities are also available where you can roast marshmallows as well as watch kid-friendly movies every night! Make sure you check the activity calendar.
Getting to Port Orleans Riverside in Disney World
If you have made the decision to stay at Disney World's Port Orleans, here's what you can expect.
Since you are staying at Disney World Resorts, you can sign up for Disney's Magical Express to take a large motorcoach to the resort. It is generally a 35 minute trip to your resort once you make it there.
As you head from the airport to Port Orleans Riverside, you'll definitely notice that the resort is located inside Disney World. This means that you get all of the perks of being a Disney World resort guest (extra magic hours and early entry is one of the many if I had to name a few). Staying on property means that you get to enter the parks early, which means that you get to be one of the firsts to ride some of the attractions, minimizing the amount of time you have to wait in line (this is huge).
If you received your Magic Bands, you can skip the registration and check-in process by using your Magic Bands to access your room. If you wanted to try your hand at getting some Pixie Dust for an upgraded room because you've arrived early and they haven't assigned your room, you can always go. The two times I went to the counter, the lines were insane. However, the Castmembers were always happy, smiling, and most importantly, professional.
As you enter into the resort check-in and registration area, you'll notice that there is a lot of greenery, and it's very jungle like.
Eating and Dining at Port Orleans Riverside
Breakfast at Port Orleans Riverside
Riverside Mill Food Court
This is a replica of a cotton factory that has a beautiful wooden waterwheel along with a beautiful view of the river as you are eating.
With our Quick Service Dining Plan that we were happily surprised about that I mentioned, we had the opportunity to eat breakfast at Riverside Mill. It was certainly nothing to write home about. They had counter service which had a good selection of eggs, bacon, sausage, omelets (which were pretty good), and iced coffee.
However, the next day we went over to the sister resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, and had their breakfast. They had a larger selection, a better meal hall, and a bakery to get beignettes which were absolutely delicious. A snack credit included three Mickey beignets, which was enough to feed my husband and I.
Lunch and Dinner Options at Port Orleans
Riverside Mill Food Court
We didn't eat lunch or dinner at the food court, but it does have five specialty areas where you can get anything from a bakery item, carved meats, or even a salad where you can use your Quick Service Credit. The hours for this location are 6 a.m. to midnight, with hours that vary for each of the five locations.
Food options for kids include pasta with sauce, turkey sandwich, mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets.
Boatwright's Dining Hall
We didn't end up going here because we ended up at the parks most of the day. It is a boating themed sit-down restaurant that has cajun and southern food and is only open for dinner.
Muddy Rivers Pool Bar
This is a bar that wraps around the feature pool and is open between 11:30 a.m. to sunset.
Sassagoula Pizza Express
There is also a pizza delivery option to your resort room if you end up not wanting to go out, and they will deliver between 4pm and midnight every day.
River Roost Lounge
Inside Riverside Mill, there is live entertainment which sometimes includes a sing-a-long-show for the family.
If you are just looking for an inexpensive option with a little more room than the Disney value resorts give you, Port Orleans Riverside in Orlando will definitely give you what you are looking for including all of the benefits of staying inside the resort.
In general, Port Orleans French Quarter might be a better option at the same price point and similar theme if you are looking for a resort that is a little more lively and has better options for a quick bite to eat for breakfast before you head to the theme parks for the day.
Check out my Disney World ultimate line hack for details on how we were able to skip the lines at Disney World.
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