In a previous post I mentioned that our December 2011 trip to Walt Disney World would be a trip of firsts for us. Today I am going to share with you our experiences with one of those big firsts, our first time staying at Port Orleans Riverside.
While we had never stayed at Riverside prior to this trip, we are in no way strangers to the Port Orleans resorts. In fact, the first moderate we ever stayed at was Port Orleans French Quarter, and even today, it is the resort we have stayed at the most times. At least once during each of our stays there we made the short walk over to Riverside. We enjoyed the walk along the Sassagoula River (particularly first thing in the morning), and my wife liked running between the two resorts. The big (pun intended) thing that we noticed about Riverside compared to French Quarter was it's immense size, and to be honest, that was my biggest concern when we decided we would be spending 8 nights there.
One of our favorite things about French Quarter was how small and intimate it was, and Riverside seemed so large and sprawling. In my review of Coronado Springs, I expressed how the big downside to the resort was it's size, and how far we ended up from the main building. That was a two night stay, this would be eight, and that could be a lot of extra walking! And as the famous quote about Disney World goes, "If you aren't waiting in line, you're walking!"
We spent a lot of time researching where we should request
our room on Port Orleans.org, an unofficial fan site of the resort. We nailed it down to building 18, but not because of the location, but because it was one of only a couple newly renovated buildings in Alligator Bayou. Riverside is divided into two sections, and the other section is Magnolia Bend, which is fashioned after southern plantation type mansions. We liked the theming of Magnolia Bend better, but we had to stay in Alligator Bayou because we are a family of five, and it is only in that section where you get the trundle bed option for the third kid.
As it turned out we did not get building 18, or a renovated room. Instead we were assigned to building 16, which turned out to be pretty close to the main building, so that was good.
We found the room to be in good order. It was clean, and comfortable. But, after 23 hours of traveling from Romania I would have probably been alright with sleeping on the reception desk! We were just across the path from one of the quiet pools and the laundry facility, and the main pool and playground (both on Ol' Man Island) were a short walk away. We liked the theme of Alligator Bayou better than we thought we would. The landscaping was beautiful! Big, green trees everywhere! It was a big change from Eastern Europe in winter! The room had a rustic feel to it, but as I said before it was comfortable.
The kids really enjoyed Ol' Man Island. After getting some much needed sleep, we woke up and (after breakfast) hit the playground and pool. We spent quite a few hours at the playground on this trip, and it kept the little one's attentions very well. Lots of things to climb up and jump off of! The pool was also very popular. The little ones waded in the kiddie pool, while Alyssa and Mom and Dad enjoyed being able to go down the water slide in December! The pool was never over crowded, which I heard can happen during busy times. A couple of times we got food from the food court and brought it out to enjoy poolside. I highly recommend doing that!
While we are talking food, I want to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the food at Riverside. I had heard that the food court was better than average, but it was true. because it is larger, there is more variety than over at French Quarter. I don't remember ever being disappointed with anything I ordered there. I do however remember LOVING the Beef and Blue sandwich I got once, and the Dream Bar for dessert was amazing! Of course, as usual, the kids ate up the chicken nuggets and french fries like they were going out of style!
We also had a couple of meals from Boatwright's, the table service restaurant at Riverside. We wanted to try Boatwright's even though we had heard mixed (to be polite) reviews of the restaurant. It wasn't the best restaurant we experienced on this trip, but the food was pretty good. We got a couple of meals as take out (which wasn't a difficult task, but not really easy either), and what we ate we enjoyed. The prime rib was too fatty for Lindsey, the former vegetarian, and it could have used some more seasoning, but it was tasty. The kids enjoyed the personal pizzas from the kids menu.
Another first for us on this trip was something that we have wanted to do for a long time, but just hadn't gotten around to it... renting a surrey bike! This was one of our best memories of the entire trip! We had an absolute blast riding along the Sassagoula, dodging unsuspecting pedestrians, and ringing the bell for all to hear. We are planning on doing this again at Disneyland Paris if we have time and the weather permits. I can definitely see this becoming one of our family traditions on future trips!
We did have one really negative thing happen while we were there, and that was at Fulton's, the gift shop. I went in to add $100 dollars to a gift card, and ended up getting charged $400! It was a couple of days before we noticed it, but they did not fight us. It did however take several days after we left the resort, and dozens of phone calls to our bank, and to the store, before it was completely resolved. They were helpful, but considering what they did, not very apologetic. It was a dork spot, but it didn't ruin how we felt about our vacation or the resort as a whole.
So all in all we were very happy with our stay at Port Orleans Riverside. Despite it's size the layout and landscaping of the resort does give you an intimate feel. We were there at a pretty busy time, just before the holiday rush, but it never felt crowded to us. The winding tree lined paths were great for strolling around, and being on the banks of the river was very serene. I don't think that Riverside will top our list of favorite moderate resorts, but it did not disappoint. It was a great home base for what was a really great return to Disney World!