Disney's Port Orleans Riverside: A Resort Hotel Review

by Sean Prescott, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 03-10-2011

Photo illustrating Walt Disney World - Lodging

One of my favorite resorts at Walt Disney World is Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. This unique resort gives you the feeling of stepping back in time to a slower pace.

Port Orleans Riverside is a grouping of smaller buildings as opposed to the large single building that is typical of many deluxe resorts. Some of the buildings such as the Magnolia and Arcadia houses are designed in a plantation manor house style, while others in the Alligator Bayou district look a bit more rustic. Room layouts at Port Orleans Riverside are the same, but room decor is in keeping w ith the building's style. The property is enormous -- there are a total of five swimming pools, Boatwright’s Dining Hall, the Riverside Mill Food Court, a lounge, an arcade, horse drawn carriage rides, boat rentals and so much more. You can literally spend a whole day at Port Orleans Riverside and be entertained without ever stepping foot in a park.

Port Orleans Riverside - Magnolia Bend Area photo
Port Orleans Riverside - Magnolia Bend Area

The boat to Downtown Disney. This photo was selected as Photo of the Day on 2/9/11.

My wife and I are Florida natives and, of course, Walt Disney World is a major part of our lives. Our first visit to Port Orleans Riverside was in December 2004. We spent 4 days and 3 nights and attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Anyone who has been to Walt Disney World during the holidays knows that they go all out, and Port Orleans Riverside is no exception. When we arrived to check-in around 3:30 pm, we were greeted by a group of carolers singing Christmas songs. The lobby was fully decorated with garlands hanging from the ceiling and an enormous Christmas tree.

We planned the trip to be a romantic getaway and Port Orleans Riverside is a perfect hotel for that. There is almost a mile of paved walking and jogging trails that follow the Sassagoula River. Port Orleans Riverside also offers a horse drawn carriage ride in the evenings (booking early is a necessity). We have seen the route that the carriage follows and it’s beautiful. Surrounded by huge Oaks and the Sassagoula River, the trail is a wonderful way to slow down after a busy day of park hopping. It truly takes you back in time.

Port Orleans Riverside has many different things for people to do on the water. You can rent Sea Raycer personal power boats by Sea Ray®, kayaks, canopy boats or pontoon boats and make your way up and down the river. The rates for all rentals vary by time of year, so check with the resort or call 407-939-0754 to reserve in advance. You can also reserve a fishing excursion on the Sassagoula by calling that number, and for a far smaller fee, there is an old fishin’ hole (catch and release only) in the Ol' Man Island recreation area.

For something more than "basic" transportation, a free ferry runs frequently from Port Orleans Riverside to Port Orleans French Quarter and then on to Downtown Disney. Though you can make the trip faster by taking the bus or driving yourself, the ride down the river is very nice. You will enjoy a view of one of the Lake Buena Vista golf course and you will also pass by the Saratoga Springs resort. The trip is nice if you are not in a hurry. Transportation from the resort to all parks is available by bus from the resort. If you're bound for another resort, you can take the bus or ferry to Downtown Disney and transfer there to buses to all resorts.

Another thing that is always important to talk about is the food. Boatwright’s Dining Hall, Port Orleans Riverside’s table-service restaurant, serves dinner only. It is a mix of American and Southern comfort foods. Choices include Southern favorites like Bourbon Barbecue Shrimp, Jamabalya, and Pecan Pie.

The other option is the cafeteria-style offerings at the Riverside Mill food court, open 6:00 am - midnight for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here you can get a la carte items such as pastries or bagels or complete meals for dine-in, or boxed to go back to your room. The seating area is very spacious. They have a kid's corner near the working water wheel with a low table for coloring and a TV playing one of Disney’s animated classics. The food here is just as good as Boatwright's, without as much of a wait and at slightly less expense. There is also a very wide variety of food available, so even the pickiest of eaters should be able to find something they will enjoy. Also available from Riverside Mill is fresh pizza, delivered to your room (for a small delivery charge) until midnight. This is great for those late nights after you get back from enjoying the evening Extra Magic Hours that are one of the perks for staying at a Disney resort.

Tip: Standard Views Can Be Sweet
If you have been to a particular Disney resort before, and/or know the exact location of the room you want and know it faces the water, then book for water-view room. If not, then I don't think it is worth it to pay for a water view. In May we asked for a water-view at Port Orleans Riverside and were under a staircase and the view was hidden by said staircase and bushes. In December, we asked for standard-view room at Port Orleans Riverside and got a VERY nice view. We were looking at a fountain. Much better! It wasn't worth the extra $200. - tip contributed by Christelle
related tip

related tip Save This Tip

(If you have not been a Guest at one of the Walt Disney World resorts, the Extra Magic Hours are a special time every morning and/or evening when one park will open an hour early or stay open up to three hours later for resort guests only. It is a fantastic benefit that you get just for being a guest at any Walt Disney World resort. For more information on the Extra Magic Hours check out the Walt Disney World web site for all the details and schedule.)

I think that one of the best ways to enjoy a Walt Disney World vacation is to be able to get away from the parks and crowds at some point and just relax. The Port Orleans Riverside Resort is one of the best places I have found in the "World" to relax. You have all the benefits of staying at a Disney resort with out feeling like you have to be on the go all day, every day. This resort is great for couples or families. If you want a romantic getaway or just a nice place to rest between parks, this is the place. With the beautiful grounds and all the activities, you can stay at this resort many times over many years and still not get to see and do everything they have to offer. In my opinion it is the “Happiest Resort in the World.”

About the Author:
Sean and his wife live in Florida, where he is a realtor. They had a Fairy Tale Wedding at Disney's BoardWalk Resort in May 2005.

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Reader Comments:

We are booked at Port Orleans Riverside in June. I was really excited and read some great reviews and comments about it. Today I was on some sites that had some REALLY bad reviews of it. Now I am nervous and second-guessing my choice. :( I know it is not a delux and the room will be simple. I stayed at FQ 12 years ago and it was great. The reviews were saying it was filthy, dingy and moldy. I can take simple, but not filthy, dingy and moldy. Has anyone stayed there recently and can ease my fears or convince me to change resorts? I requested AB building 14. Has anyone had bad experiences there? Are some buildings nicer than others? If Disney comes out with a great discount on rooms I would consider upgrading to WL. But I did have my heart set on POR. Any thoughts???????????

     phoebec on July 26, 2010 @ 9:00 pm
When we stayed there we enjoyed it very much! We have stayed at both POR and FQ and have to say these are our favorite mods. I love the laid back southern charm and the fact that you get benefits from both resorts! So I can't say that I have ever ran into a problem of filthiness at this resort! I say don't second guess it!

     DoleWhipLover on July 26, 2010 @ 9:14 pm
I have stayed there in 2006 & 2007 and was very happy with my stay. I did not notice anything filthy, dingy or moldy. It was clean everywhere we went. We went cane pole fishing and did the carriage ride. The boat to Downtown Disney is a nice and relaxing ride and so much better than being on a bus.

The only real downfall is that there is not elevator and walking up the stairs with 2 sleeping kids and a stroller is a little bit of a pain in the butt.

Go with your original plans and stay. You will have a good time.

     roundupgang on July 26, 2010 @ 9:22 pm
We stayed there in 2004, and loved it!

     Cheriemek on July 26, 2010 @ 9:36 pm
Havent stayed there but it looks like a great place to stay smiley for :)

     Tigger25 on July 26, 2010 @ 10:14 pm
We had our first stay at POR this past January and fell in love, the grounds were gorgeous. It's easily our new favorite mod resort. We requested Alligator Bayou since we knew that the Magnolia Bend didn't have elevators and it's 3 floors where as Alligator Bayou is only 2. I don't think you'll be disappointed at all.

Have a great trip!

     mdobereiner on July 26, 2010 @ 10:33 pm
Are you sure it was the Disney property?? When I researched the hotels by name on the internet, I found that off site properties go by the same name. I began reading a review that said the room was filthy, moldy and had dirt on the pull out bed. I was stunned! When I read further, I saw the hotel was located in New Orleans. It wasn't the Disney Resort! All of the Disney resorts we have stayed at were impecable! And should you find an issue, all you have to do is call the front desk and they will take care of it immediately! Good luck to you. Enjoy your stay!

     Ray C on July 26, 2010 @ 10:57 pm
We were just there last month and we loved it. It was clean and so calm and peaceful. My kids are begging to stay there "every time we go". The food court was fantastic, Piano Bob was awesome. I can't say enough good about it.

     dutchdisneyfamily on July 26, 2010 @ 11:06 pm
We have stayed there 4 times the last being in August 09 and we are staying part of our trip there next month and we have never had any issues. We love the resort. Housekeeping was always great and the one time there was a minor issue in the bathroom there was someone there fixing the problem within an hour. We love the atmosphere, even with large crowds we never felt that crowded feeling. I would definitely recommend it.

     mcc0313 on July 26, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

     kbken on July 26, 2010 @ 11:29 pm
Magnolia Bend does have elevators. AB does not. We stayed in Magnolia Terrace. Had a great stay last August. Room was clean, mousekeeping excellent. The grounds are beautiful. It's a great resort. I prefer the theming of the mansion section, it's a personal pref.

     Sue M. on July 27, 2010 @ 4:07 am
thanks for your opinions! I feel much bettersmiley for :)

     phoebec on July 27, 2010 @ 8:37 am
I am staying for first time in November. Thanks also for the great reviews, now I am looking even more forward to it!

     iwanttogoback on July 27, 2010 @ 9:10 am
We last stayed at POR is 2008 and it is a fabulous place to stay. We love the Mansions section

     jimmymac on July 27, 2010 @ 9:20 am
We stayed there back in 2004 and loved it. I will admit the room had ground up doritos on the floor and the toilet needed to be cleaned when we got there. I called the front desk and explained the situation and someone came right up and took care of it. The room was always cleaned well for the rest of the time that we were there. I just took what happened as a fluke. Maybe the person who cleaned the room before we got there was just having an off day. I can't fault anyone for that. We ALL have off days. If the cleaning was sub-par all week it would have been different, but it was great for the rest of our stay.

     RyanC on July 27, 2010 @ 9:22 am
During our last visit to WDW back in Dec. 2008, we stayed at POR in the Oak Manor section. The room we were assigned was not up to par. The front door to the room looked so worn and beat up, then inside the room it smelled so musty and moldy and the furnishings were a bit worn too. After a couple days I became very ill and we discovered a bad mold problem in the bathroom. (I am severly allergic to mold) We called the front desk right away, explained our dilemma with the mold and they had no problems moving us to another room. They were very concerned at how sick I was from the mold and were just very helpful in getting us a new room. We got moved to the Parterre Place section that same day after our call and had no further problems in the new room after that. We didn't let this one incident get us down or to not ever want to stay at POR again. We still love POR and would definitely stay there again! smiley for :)

     lazanya on July 27, 2010 @ 1:54 pm
We stayed in October 2009. I found no problems with filth. We stayed in AB and the rustic feel of the room was nice. The beds were average beds. I have slept in better and have slept in worse. The grounds were beautiful. The boat ride was relaxing and the food in the food court was actually very good. We actually chose to eat there versus other places we could have chosen. The main building is very nice and the staff was super friendly.

I left my purse on the bus and after trying to track it down at the lost and found at DTD and finding it closed we conceded that we would have to wait until morning. Much to our surprise, one of the staff members brought it to us at 2 AM, which was fine by me. Helped me sleep better anyway.

This was our first trip and we have booked another trip for this November. The only complaint I did have was how long of a walk it was from our room to the bus stop. I requested something closer this time since we are taking my elderly in-laws so hopefully that won't be as much of an issue.

I hope you have a nice trip!!

     nursesandy on August 2, 2010 @ 2:07 am
We stayed in 2007 and we loved it. We prefer the French Quarter but Riverside was just as nice.

     Cheeser on August 2, 2010 @ 1:31 pm
I have to say-
I had my in-laws stay here for our Disney Wedding last year and I was embarassed.
I heard such great things about POR so although I had not stayed there, recommended it to them.
They came in from Ireland and it was their first trip to WDW. The rooms were dark and dingy, paint peeling on the outside doors, just looked very old. etc.

I wish I had booked them in CBR! I had stayed there and loved it and I think they would have liked it much better.

I know most here disagree (as the previous posters all have good things to say about POR) but this was my experience.

     Lorelei528 on August 2, 2010 @ 1:59 pm
We are staying there for the first time this Christmas. We stayed at POFQ last October and after driving and walking around POR, DD#2 asked if we could stay at POR next time we book a moderate. The grounds and buildings all looked great.

     chillepepa on August 2, 2010 @ 5:49 pm
we've stayed at POR twice now and loved it both times. grounds are absolutely beautiful and well kept. we stayed here the first time during the summer months and I must say I was truly impressed with the fact that even with the river close by we did not get bit by any mosquitos. our stay was equally nice last december. even got a few towel animals. we stayed in AB section both times. of course there are good and bad reviews for all the resorts (i've seen quite a few bad reviews for even the deluxe category resorts!) so there's always that chance of getting a bad apple. the good thing about disney is that if you do get that bad apple the CM's will go out of their way to make sure the wrong is righted and that the rest of your stay is everything you had hoped!

     DisneyLuv on August 3, 2010 @ 10:31 am
I stayed there about a year ago and it was fine. It is a large resort and so the next time I do a moderate I will probably choose POFQ. I didn't see anything filthy or dingy about it. I stayed in the Alligator Bayou part and it was just fine. I've never seen a Disney resort filthy. Occasionally, you might see a little bit of something that was missed but all the quality is still there. You will have a wonderful time there!

     MelC on August 3, 2010 @ 10:35 am
We usually stay at POR and we LOVE it! This time we are staying at CBR in the pirates room 'cause it is a surprise trip for my kids! shhhhh Oldest DD likes to read over my shoulder.
While we LOVE the resort we do think it is in need of some TLC/refurb. It is about time but that will never make us stop going there it is so peaceful you do not feel like you are at Disney and we have had great service. LOVE the food selections...I have read that they have the best options...we will see when we are at CBR. We LOVE the corn bread at POR and the carving section for food choice...the meat melts in your mouth. We always have at least one CS meal here everyday.:yummy:
It is a great resort and I think you will be happy...if you are not satisfied with the room just let the front desk know...we have never had a room that was dirty or musty smelling ever. Ouyr rooms have always been clean and mousekeeping is GREAT!!!
Have fun!
Oh yeah we always stay in Patterre Place(mansion section) and w elove to walk and the laundry/quiet pool is right next to the building. I never minded the walk to the main bus stop or the main building...it's a nice stroll and relaxing you don't feel like you are at Disney. While you can't see the fireworks you can see them light up the sky.

     doccoc2002 on August 3, 2010 @ 10:48 am
We have stayed there 4 times, and we LOVE it! Can't say enough good things about it. I suppose that maybe compared to the Grand Floridian it would look old, but we've had only great experiences there.

     IdahoDisneyMom on August 4, 2010 @ 6:22 pm
You have made the right choice. We stay at Alligator Bayou every year, and were there for a week in Feb of this year. It is not moldy filthy or dirty. I suspect you had the other hotel by that name in New Orleans. We love it because it is a quiet resort, and you feel like you are really in Florida and away from the parks. We love the vegetation and you always see critters like bunnies, lizards and birds around the rooms. It's lovely. DH says the main thing he likes about it is that the environment makes you feel like you are in the woods, quieter, away from the hustle and bustle, and it really feels like you are relaxed down on the bayou! The theming is great.

     apk on August 6, 2010 @ 9:52 pm
I'm glad to hear this too because in 5 weeks I'll be checking in! We LOVED CBR and I would have gone back there if it wasn't for the fact that I want to stay in many different resorts!

     Angileyze1 on August 7, 2010 @ 10:59 am
I think you'll love your choice, we've stayed at POR 3x's, twice in the mansion section and once in AB section. The mansions are my favorite by far. AB has a more rustic feel to it, mansions more classical. The only bad thing I'd have to say about this resort is how huge it is...and the busses make many stops. I'd fax a building request to them before your trip for bld #14 (and another choice) just to be on the safe side. One of our trips, I requested two buildings close to the main building on our reservation...ended up with one furthest away from that area. At the time we just wanted in our room so we didn't want to wait...but those requests that are made 'attached to the reservation' aren't guaranteed...be prepared.

     Princess_Wantabe on August 7, 2010 @ 4:12 pm
One of the best things about this resort for me is that POR is centrally located to almost every park and has it's own boat to/fr downtown disney.

I first stayed there in 1996 and then again in 2006 ~ we are going this december and have again decided to stay here versus trying another moderate.

     HiMagicFan on August 8, 2010 @ 6:04 pm
I was there at the end of April. I stayed in the Mansions and my room was just fine.

I liked POR and will stay there again if I stay at a moderate on my solo trip. The boat to DTD was great. The bar was nice, the CM's were friendly and I liked the food court and gift shop.

     ShellingConnie on August 8, 2010 @ 6:06 pm
We stayed there March 09. We never saw any signs of filth or anything being dirty. We loved it & we have stayed deluxe a lot. This was our favorite moderate.

     heatherwillmom on August 10, 2010 @ 7:48 pm
We stayed at POR/AB in 2003, 2006 and 2009 - no moldy, dingy rooms that we saw. Found the resort to be very well kept and beautiful - the rooms, grounds, food court, etc. I think you would be very happy there!

     Joanne929 on August 11, 2010 @ 9:55 pm
I have never had an issue staying at POR but MUCH prefer POFQ!! But either way...I like them both and would go back again and again!

     Mickey's Princess on August 11, 2010 @ 10:26 pm
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Updated 03-10-2011 - Article #599 

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