Disney’s Moderate Resorts remind me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Disney’s Value Resorts are too cheap (in the bad sense of the word), the Deluxe Resorts (much as I love ‘em) are too expensive, but the moderates are just right.
That being said, which of them should you choose? Having stayed in all four of the moderates (some more than once), I feel informed enough to share my impressions with you.
4. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – This was Disney’s first moderate resort, opening October 1, 1988. The Caribbean Beach Resort is designed with a Caribbean theme (bet you could’ve guessed that one, huh?). Guests stay in one of the small buildings that encircle Barefoot Bay, a 45-acre lake. Buildings are grouped into one of six villages, each named after an island in the Caribbean: Martinique, Barbados, Jamaica, Aruba, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South. In 2008, Disney began work redesigning several hundred of the rooms to a Finding Nemo theme, then refurbished 384 rooms in the Trinidad South village to have a pirate theme. Old Port Royale (OPR) is the main activities area with Market Street (food court), Shutters (sit-down restaurant), Calypso Trading Post and Straw Market (shops), Goombay Games (arcade), and a large pool with a Spanish fort theme. I really do love the theme of this resort, and it’s carried out well.
The walk between OPR and your room is pleasant, but can be long: the most distant guest rooms are at least a 15 minute walk away. I love to walk, but the trek from our room in Trinidad South was, in short, a pain. The only thing worse would have been to wait for the Disney buses to take me. And speaking of buses, they make stops at seven locations within the resort. So just because you’ve finally boarded a Magic Kingdom bus, don’t think you’re actually heading there anytime soon.
3. Coronado Springs Resort is another of Disney's moderately priced resorts, and opened on August 1, 1997. The complex has 1,917 rooms and suites situated in three villages around a 15-acre lake called Lago Dorado – the Casitas, the Ranchos and the Cabanas. Coronado Springs has an American Southwest/northern Mexico theme and is a showcase of native architecture and landscaping. There is a stepped Mayan pyramid towering over an elaborate pool area with a water slide and a playground that doubles as an archeological dig site for kids. While a very beautiful resort, this is another extremely spread-out complex, with some rooms nearly half a mile from the main building. There is no one section close to everything. If you want to be near the pool, you’re not going to be close to the shopping and restaurants, for example. And the buildings themselves – well, I swear that I must always get the room the farthest from the staircase, and once I reach my building (am I in 6A or 6B? They look exactly the same), I still have quite a hike to my room.
This is Disney's first moderately priced convention hotel. There is a 95,000-square-foot convention center that includes a 60,214 square-foot ballroom, as well as a full-service business center. This can affect your stay in a couple of ways. First, there may be a gaggle of conventioneers at the resort during your stay, and for some reason, they seem to love making fun of Disney in very loud voices. Oh, the fist fights my husband has averted by dragging me off by my hair. Also, the dining options seemed more geared to the convention crowd. Maya Grill (the sit-down restaurant) is beautiful, but prices run upwards of $29 per entrée for some pretty ho-hum food (I’m guessing Disney is assuming that conventioneers have robust expense accounts). The drink list at Rix Lounge is extensive but expensive. Appetizers are available, but I find $16 a little steep for some bar munchies. The one shining star in CSR dining is the Pepper Market. Pepper Market is a food court that seats over 400 in an open-air market atmosphere. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, it features both standard fare (pizza, pasta, burgers) and Mexican cuisine. There is also a grill with omelets made to order, and joy of joys, a margarita kiosk.
Transportation to the theme parks is about what you’d expect: buses, making four stops within the resort before heading on their merry way to theme parks.
2. Port Orleans Riverside – was designed to reflect the Antebellum South along the Mississippi River. The resort opened February 2, 1992 as Disney's Dixie Landings Resort, initially with rooms located in its Alligator Bayou section, and shortly afterward the remaining Magnolia Bend section was opened. Alligator Bayou consists of 1,024 guest rooms over 16 buildings styled as rustic, weathered lodges with 64 rooms per lodge. Magnolia Bend consists of 1,024 guest rooms over four buildings styled as southern plantation grand manor homes with 256 rooms per mansion. This is the only moderate resort that can accommodate five guests in some of its rooms. Riverside has two primary dining spots: a sit-down restaurant, Boatwright's, and a food court, Riverside Mill. Ol’ Man Island is the themed pool area, and Riverside also has a marina where guests can rent personal water craft, bicycles or surrey bikes. Horse-drawn carriage rides are available in the evening.
This may have made the top spot on my list if not for two factors: 1. the size of the resort places some of the rooms quite a distance from the main area, and 2. the theme isn’t quite to my personal liking. Do you remember in the late 1980’s when everyone seemed to be decorating their homes in country kitsch? That’s what my room in Alligator Bayou reminded me of. I didn’t like it in the 80’s, and I don’t like it now. But that’s just me.
1. Port Orleans French Quarter – my favorite of the moderates. Designed to reflect the style and architecture of New Orleans' French Quarter, the resort opened May 17, 1991 and boasts 1,008 rooms in seven 3-story guest buildings containing 144 rooms each. The intimate size of this resort is its biggest selling point in my opinion; no long treks to Doubloon Lagoon (pool) or Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory (food court). Unfortunately, there is no longer a sit-down restaurant at this resort ( and I loved Bonfamille’s), but you can walk over to Boatwright’s at Riverside or better yet, boat to Downtown Disney and choose from its plethora of dining options!
The Port Orleans resorts share a bussing system. The buses make one stop at FQ before heading to Riverside for an additional four stops. This means that if you are staying at FQ then: a) you’re pretty much guaranteed a seat on the bus, and b) after a long day at the parks, you get dropped off first.
All of the moderates are fabulous, and everyone has their personal favorites. Please fan me over at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene to discuss your favorite resort, and to receive notifications of my new posts!