Today we continue our series on the Disney resorts with the mid-level category or Moderate Resorts. I will tell you a little bit about the amenities within the category and will give a run down of the resorts.
Disney officially considers Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness as moderate resorts. I am going to stick to the first 4 for now. The Cabins are EXTREMELY different from the rest of the resorts. I will cover the entire Fort Wilderness property in a future blog.
One big difference of the Moderate category is that the theme is inspired by locations. The disney touches are here are a little more subtle. I don’t think that Moderate Resorts receive enough attention. Budget-minded tourists flock to the Value Resorts and guests seeking more extravagant trips go to the Deluxe Resorts. The Moderate level resorts give you a little more space, a little more elegance for a great price!
We usually stay in the moderates. The Deluxe Resorts are usually too pricey for more than a couple of nights. We have tried Value Resorts, but find that the slightly smaller rooms (and beds) to be a noticeable difference. For a relatively marginal price increase, we have always felt most at home at Disney’s Moderate Resorts.
They are all pretty consistent when it comes to price. They fluctuate on which is the better priced based on availability. Coronado can get pricey if there is a convention in town. Coronado and Caribbean are both undergoing major refurbishments so we may see availability become increasingly difficult. It is important to note neither of Port Orleans typically participate in promotions.
Compared to the values, the moderates provide much more and more livable space in their rooms; nicer landscaping; queen rather than full beds, coffee pots; table service restaurants in all but French Quarter, and less garish theming.
The moderates also provide the most cost-effective way to sleep five in the Alligator ?Bayou section of Riverside, and in newly-refurbed five-person rooms at Caribbean Beach.
Moderate Resorts Offer:
- Guest rooms are accessed via an external doorway. No guest rooms in the main building. Main building houses guest check-in, one shop, and food service. Outer guest buildings may be a long walk from the main building.
- Typical standard rooms are approximately 314 square feet. These rooms sleep up to four guests, plus a baby in a crib. There are some rooms at Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach equipped to sleep up to five guests plus a baby. They have Queen Size beds. This is a HUGE difference from the Value resorts.
- Most rooms have a two sinks, one toilet, and one shower/tub combo. Typically the toilet and shower are contained in a room with a door, while the sinks are outside the door. Often the sink area can be separated from the main room via a curtain, sliding door, or other partition.
- Dining – Food court. Poolside bar. At least one table service dining option. At least one indoor bar or lounge. In-room pizza delivery available in the evenings
- Transportation- Disney-provided transportation to the theme parks is via bus. There is boat transportation to Disney Springs from the Port Orleans Properties.
- Themed pools and “quiet” pools. May have some water play or interactive elements. May have medium-sized water slide.
Disney knows that some hotel rooms are better than others. Most people prefer to be close to the lobby and dining, and want something pretty to look at from their hotel room window. To capitalize on this, Disney categorizes all of resort hotel rooms based on how long it takes you to walk to the lobby, and what you see from inside the room.
Caribbean Beach Resort
The Caribbean Beach Resort is meant to look like a seaside village in the Caribbean. At 200 acres Disney’s Caribbean Beach is the largest of the Moderate resorts. It is modeled after resorts in the Caribbean, consists of the registration area (“Custom House”) and six two-story “villages” named after Caribbean islands (Trinidad North, Trinidad South, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba and Jamaica) . Each village has its own pool, laundry room, and beach. The Caribbean motif is maintained with blue metal roofs, widow’s walks, and wooden railed porches. Each village is painted a different, cheery caribbean color.
For an even more special experience, the Caribbean Beach Resort offers pirate-themed rooms. These swashbuckling sleeping quarters are adorned with bedframes resembling pirate ships, complete with a wall mounted mast and sail. The pirate rooms are not nearly as bright as the regular Caribbean Beach rooms, but the dark wood, gold doubloon bedspreads, wood plank patterned carpet, and skull and crossbones bathroom curtain remind all who enter that this be pirate territory matey.
If you decide to sleep like a pirate at Caribbean Beach, there are two important things to remember about the pirate rooms. Firstly, as you may imagine they are more expensive, Additionally, the pirate rooms are all located in Trinidad South, which is the most remote of the six Caribbean Beach villages.
Caribbean Beach has 7 pools. The largest is themed to resemble a Caribbean fort complete with turrets and cannons. This main pool sits directly behind the Old Port Royale food court area and features two waterslides, one a massive 82 feet in length.Adjacent to the main pool is a water play area, where small children can play in a very shallow pool punctuated by a climbing structure with mini-waterslides and a periodically spilling water bucket.
In addition to the large main pool, each of the six villages has its own “quiet” pool. Quiet pools are Disney’s name for their smaller pools, the noise level varies depending on the pool’s users. Each of these pools is smaller than the main pool and has no extras such as a child play area or slide.
Shutters is Caribbean Beach’s full-service restaurant. Shutters, which serves up food with the expected Caribbean flavor. Found in the Old Port Royale building, Shutters is only open from 5:00 pm until 10:00 pm for dinner. This is basically a restaurant only for those staying at Caribbean Beach as there is little reason for anyone to travel to the resort just for Shutters. Notables on the menu include New York strip steak, jerk-crusted tuna, chicken wings with habanero sauce, and pork ribs with vanilla-chipotle glaze. Many offered items promise spiciness and deep flavor, but mostly fail to deliver.
If you are looking for breakfast, lunch, or a quicker meal is more to your liking, Caribbean Beach also has the Old Port Royale Food Court. The area is bright and cheerful, much like the rest of the resort. It is beautifully decorated to resemble an outdoor market with a sky blue painted ceiling and strings of lanterns hanging over the walkway.
The overall setup is much like a food court at a mall. There are several different stations, each selling one set of meals. For example, one station sells pizza and pasta; another sells burgers; another is dedicated to sandwiches, and so on. If your kids each want something different, you’ll have to line up several times. Breakfast is the standard fare of egg and meat platters, omelets, and Mickey-shaped waffles. Some standout entrees from the Lunch and Dinner menu include the Cuban Sandwich and Pan Seared Salmon.
Coronado Springs is inspired by northern Mexico and the American Southwest, the resort is divided into three separately themed areas. The Ranchos call to mind Southwestern cattle ranches, while the Cabanas are modeled after Mexican beach resorts and the multistoried Casitas embody elements of Spanish architecture found in Mexico’s great cities.
Coronado Springs is unique as it is also a convention resort. While this shouldn’t affect the typical family much – there are some slight differences. A lot of families are actually turned off by the more adult atmosphere and people walking around in business casual clothing, but we love it! Buses are less crowded because business travelers are not using them. You receive deluxe amenities in your room. There are more dining options and even more drinking options. Also the rooms are configured a little differently with a desk instead of a table. It gives you a little more space AND a power strip!
They also offer Business Class, or Club Level, rooms which feature upgraded mattresses and bathrobes, and include access to extra services including a Club Lounge that offers continental breakfast, midday snacks, and wine and cheese in the evening. Our post on Deluxe Resorts will detail Club Level amenities a little more in depth.
The El Centro is the area that contains the registration area, gift shop, food court, and Rix Lounge. A separate area called The Dig Site, between the Ranchos and Cabanas, is where the main pool, play area, and arcade can be found. The walk between these two sites is only a few minutes, but the distance means that most rooms are reasonably close to one or the other.
Coronado Springs has 4 pools. The largest is found at the area called The Dig Site, which also contains the playground and arcade. The area is dominated by a tall Mayan stepped pyramid that looks as if it’s been sitting on that spot for centuries and houses the water slide. What the water slide empties into is one of the largest pools at Walt Disney World, officially called the Lost City of Cibola Feature Pool.
Adjacent to the main pool is a water play area, where small children can play in a very shallow pool containing several water spouts. The pool area is also where you will find the Jacuzzi as well as a beach volleyball court. In addition to the large main pool, each of the three areas has its own “quiet” pool.
Coronado Springs has two table service restaurants, a food court, and an additional small quick service spot as well as a few bars that serve small items and appetizers.
Maya Grill is Coronado Springs’ full-service restaurant specializing in southwestern cuisine. Notables on the menu include Chilorio Pork Sliders appetizer and the Arrachera, although much of the menu is uninspired Tex-Mex.
You can find slightly higher quality but lower priced food at Las Ventanas. It is tucked away in a hallway towards the convention center which leads to it being a little more quiet and relaxing. They have a great breakfast, casual lunch (I love the Mahi sandwich) and limited but well executed dinner.
The Pepper Market food court is one of my favorites on Disney property. Set up like the rest with stations for different food items I have always found the quality and service here a step above the other food courts. You have to get the half chicken. In addition to it being enough to share, it is absolutely delicious! Again, we love staying here and this is our go to when we arrive after a morning of traveling.
For grab-and-go items or even quicker meals you will find Cafe Rix with a wide variety of snacks and other simple things such as breakfast sandwiches, muffins, and donuts for breakfast and a small selection of hot or cold sandwiches for lunch and dinner. While the selection is minimal, it is fast and Café Rix opens at 6am, earlier than Pepper Market, making it a good choice for a quick pre-park breakfast.
Port Orleans Riverside
Port Orleans Riverside is my favorite in aesthetic it draws on the easy lifestyle and architecture of Mississippi River communities in antebellum Louisiana. Spread along the Sassagoula River, which encircles Ol’ Man Island (the section’s main pool area), Riverside is subdivided into two separately-themed areas: Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend.
Magnolia Bend consists of four three-story, grand- plantation-style complexes named Acadian House, Magnolia Terrace, Oak Manor, and Parterre Place. Alligator Bend is like goin’ down the bayou, with tin-roofed rustic (imitation) wooden buildings.
The Oak and Parterre buildings in Magnolia Bend contain exclusively Disney princess–themed rooms, similar in concept to the pirate-themed rooms at Caribbean Beach. Riverside’s rooms are themed to The Princess and the Frog, with appearances by Tiana’s other princess friends. These rooms cost around $70 more per night than other rooms.
Rooms in Alligator Bayou—along with those at Caribbean Beach—are unique among Disney’s Moderate properties in that they sleep five people; the fifth is a fold-down, Murphy-style bed, under the TV that is more suitable for children than adults.
Port Orleans Riverside has 6 pools. The largest, Ol’ Man Island, sits directly behind the lobby and food court. The main pool is themed after an old fashioned swimming hole and feature a rickety-looking wooden structure with a waterfall at the end.
Boatwright’s Dining Hall is Port Orleans Riverside’s full-service restaurant. Exceeding expectations for a moderate level sit down in both food and service, Boatwright’s might just be a true hidden gem. Nothing here is over-the-top or fancy, but a stop here will yield a truly satisfying meal with friendly and honest service. Make sure you try the fried cheese curds 😉
Riverside’s Food Court is called Riverside Mill – again it is set up in stations menu has the usual combinations of eggs, potatoes, bacon, ham, waffles, pancakes, and biscuits, either alone or in various “platter” options. An omelet station serves veggie, egg white, and Western omelets. For lunch and dinner they try to add some southern flair to their selection of burgers, sandwiches and entrees but they fall a little short. Service is here is also a little slow so give yourself plenty of time.
River Roost Lounge is a typical Disney bar with full drink menu, with several beer selections, a couple of wines, and a selection of spirits.What makes it worth noting is Yehaa Bob, arguably one of the best live entertainment acts at Walt Disney Wolrd. Bob has been performing at the resort since 1997 with an act consisting of sing-along songs played on the piano and heavy audience participation. The shows are always raucous and fun for all ages, so don’t be afraid to bring the family. Yehaa Bob performs nightly every Wednesday through Saturday and has actually developed a cult like following.
Port Orleans French Quarter
Port Orleans French Quarter is the smallest of the moderates and is a sanitized Disney version of New Orleans’s Vieux Carré. Consisting of only seven buildings next to the Sassagoula River, the resort suggests what New Orleans would look like if its buildings were painted every year and it wasn’t crawling with people who have had one too many hurricanes. Prim pink-and-blue guest buildings are festooned with wrought-iron filigree, shuttered windows, and old-fashioned iron lampposts. In keeping with the Crescent City theme, French Quarter is landscaped with magnolia trees and overgrown vines. The centrally located Mint contains the registration area and food court and is a reproduction of a turn-of-the-19th-century building where Mississippi Delta farmers sold their harvests.
Port Orleans French Quarter has a single main pool complex that contains 1 pool, known as the Doubloon Pool, as well as a children’s splash area complete with their own water slide. The pool area sits directly behind the lobby and food court and the main pool features a water slide shaped like an oversized sea serpent. A water-shooting cartoon alligator band is also located near the pool.
Port Orleans French Quarter has one food court called Sassagoula Float Works. There is no full-service restaurant. Some standout entrees from the Lunch and Dinner menu include the Jambalaya and Pot Roast. They also offer Mickey shaped beignets!!
Bus Transportation Breakdown
One of the biggest concerns with the Moderate Resorts is Transportation. We like the fewest amount of stops possible. The actual driving time on the bus is close enough between these four resorts that it is negligible. Therefore, what adds time to your trip is the amount of time the bus spends on the resort grounds.
In this category Port Orleans-French Quarter is the clear winner for it is the only one with only one bus stop. Being a small resort only one stop is needed and it is fairly easy to be within close walking distance to the stop. There is one thing to note – French Quarter busses may also stop at Port Orleans – Riverside.
My second favorite in this category is Coronado Springs, with Port Orleans-Riverside coming in a close third. Both of these two resorts have four stops each, although Riverside buses occasionally stop at Port Orleans-French Quarter before arriving at Riverside, which is why it gets 3rd place. Both of these resorts are also similar in that they are huge and, even with multiple bus stops, very possible that the walk from your room to the stop will be significant. In last place is Caribbean Beach which has a whopping 6 bus stops which can feel like 1,000 late at night. Caribbean Beach is also designed a little different in that the bus stops tend to be across a parking lot from their respective building groups making the walk to them that much further (the far-away-from-the-food-court Trinidad South is the only exception to this).
If, like us, you are bus people, I recommend scouring a resort map to find the closest possible building to a bus stop and requesting that. If you are trying to be close to both the bus and the food court, that is almost impossible unless you are willing to pay the premium “preferred room” rate.
Another thing I want to point out is the Free Dining Promotion. Free Dining
No discussion of Moderate Resorts would be complete without mentioning Free Dining. During the Free Dining promotion, Moderate Resorts get the the Basic Disney Dining Plan for free, just like the Deluxe Resorts, so Moderate Resorts are the best bang-for-the-buck.
However, the Port Orleans resorts are usually excluded from the general public offer (but are often included in individual PIN code offers or bounceback offers). Families of 5 will need to stay at Caribbean Beach Resort, while others should decide if Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs are better suited for their families. As Always feel free to contact me should you need help deciding.