I’m a loud and proud, self-proclaimed, Value Gal—a HUGE fan of the Value Resorts at Walt Disney World. But this past January, I was treated to a three-night stay in a 1-bedroom villa at Disney’s brand new Riviera Resort.
Some people think just staying at Value Resorts makes me cheap (and I won’t lie—budget is a BIG factor for me in planning any vacation, and the affordability factor doesn’t hurt my case for staying at a Value Resort).
But my preference goes way beyond budget—I love the bright colors of the Art of Animation, the overtly Disney theming of the All-Star Movies, and the giant food court at the Pop Century. They just feel “Disney” to me. Even if I had a million dollars, I bet I’d choose a stay here more often than not.
That doesn’t mean I don’t adore a stay at a moderate from time to time. Some of my most memorable stays have been at the Moderate level Coronado Springs Resort (WDW), or deluxe-level Disneyland Hotel (Disneyland, CA) and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel (in China).
But until a few months ago, I had never stayed at a Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World (gasp!).
When I found out about my trip to the Riviera Resort, I was bouncing off the walls excited. The theme really spoke to me, the food was supposed to be amazing, and I was really looking forward to those deluxe level amenities like hot tubs, sprawling bathrooms, and theme park views.
As someone who usually stays Value, I was really curious to see what the differences were in my guest experience (and what the similarities were too). Would this Value Gal be booking deluxe in the future? Let’s find out…
Arrival (and Departure)
I love flying into MCO and using Disney’s Magical Express to get to my resort hotel.
Luckily, this works the exact same way at all WDW hotels so there were no surprises. The only “unusual” part for us was that we were the only guests going to/coming from the Riviera Resort on our Magical Express buses—everyone else was headed to other resorts.
But that’s really luck of the draw. When we stay at Pop Century, for example, there are usually multiple other families scheduled on the same bus as us.
Check-in is also the same—you can use the direct-to-room feature on your My Disney Experience App, use online check-in to speed your arrival process, or go to the check-in counter on arrival.
Rooms aren’t ready until 3-4:-00 PM (but sometimes you get lucky and have something available sooner!) at any Disney hotel, so that’s consistent.
The unique part about Riviera is that instead of a check-in desk, you just mill around the lobby until a Cast Member notices you and asks to help out.
Probably not an issue if you are doing direct-to-room, but if you need to do an “old fashioned” check-in for some reason (I do, as coming from Canada, we have to pick up our Magic Bands!) it can be a little confusing. In this format, if you have an issue it’ll be hard to track down the same Cast Member to continue helping you.
If you’re checking your bags on arrival or departure day, the process is the same, but bag check is inside at the Riviera (so nice to not wait in the rain/heat!) and since the capacity here is smaller than at a Value resort, the process is much quicker.
Airline check-in is also inside (down on the ground floor, the lobby is up one level) and works the same as at all other resorts.
How did the experience rate, out of 10? Riviera – 9 / Value Resorts – 8
Around the Resort
Disney’s Riviera Resort is in a FANTASTIC location.
Nestled between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, you can easily fly to both resorts on the Disney Skyliner. Bus transportation to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and the waterparks is available too.
You can walk to Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort to expand your dining options, and the Skyliner also whisks you close to Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk for more dining, boating, and entertainment fun.
This makes it much better than the All-Stars but on par with Pop Century and Art of Animation for convenience. It exceeds the convenience of a few other Deluxe category resorts.
The buses here were much less crowded than at any Value I’ve stayed in, and one morning on our way to Disney Springs we were even lucky enough to have a bus called in just for us so we didn’t wait long! I think that was just a right place, right time thing, but it sure was appreciated.
One thing I loved was the ability to get from the lobby to the restaurants to my room without going outside. That’s not possible at a Value resort (or some Deluxe/Moderate resorts) and was a big bonus for me—between rain and heat in Florida, I love the option to be inside when needed.
I worried that an elegant Deluxe resort would lack the Disney theming I adore in a Value, but was pleasantly surprised by how much Disney was thoughtfully incorporated in the details—like artwork, ambient music, mosaics, and even coffee (Le Petit Cafe has a Ripple machine so you can have a character printed on your latte!).
We did enjoy an afternoon at the pool before our late flight out and had a marvelous time. CUSHIONED lounge chairs and multiple hot tubs sent this pool to the top of my resort day wish list.
Families will love the splash pad and waterslide, as well as the gelato cart nearby. There were casabellas and deep seating sets for extended poolside fun for the whole family. It’s seriously something I dream about…
How did the experience rate, out of 10? Riviera – 9 / Value Resorts – 7
The In-Room Experience
WOW! If you’re wondering where the bulk of a Value vs. Deluxe fee really goes, it’s to the room!
As someone who spends almost all my vacation time in the parks, the room is usually a place to rest my head, and simple is fine.
But if I was planning a trip with more time at the resort, the 1-bedroom villa we stayed in would be a top contender for me. I wish I could LIVE there!
Our room was spacious enough to sleep 5 but with just me and my husband we had more space than we knew what to do with.
Since we didn’t have time to cook (the kitchen was incredibly well-stocked… college me would have loved to have half that much stuff!), we ended up using the banquette dine-in area as our work station with laptops and camera gear charging.
We relaxed in the living room and had sweet dreams in the soft, pillowy, king-sized bed. There is a TON of storage here, including under the banquette, in closets, and even in the ottoman!
We had SO MUCH SPACE that I set up my travel yoga mat in the living room where I had ample space for asanas with the sunrise, and I easily just left it out the whole stay.
There is a split bath here, but unlike in a Value where the split is shower/toilet on one side and sink on the other, here we had a tub/sink on one side and shower/sink/toilet on the other.
Perfect for multiple people to get ready at once or for mom to take a soak in the tub at night without disrupting the use of the toilet for others.
Interestingly though, the only toiletry upgrade was bottles of lotion—no mouthwash or other additions some fancier suites have.
By far my favorite feature was the deep, jetted soaker tub. I took a long luxurious bath each night of our trip and it was heaven. For me, that could almost convince me to spend the money on a swanky suite more regularly. Almost.
Want to take a tour of this incredible suite?
One incredible perk of our room was that we had views over Epcot AND Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We could watch both fireworks shows and even caught glimpses of Happily Ever After in the distance.
That was SO COOL, and if you could guarantee that same view I would say this room is 200% worth the money! However, it’s the luck of the draw as preferred category rooms may only look over one park or even just over Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.
How did the experience rate, out of 10? Riviera – 10 / Value Resorts – 7
One of my biggest complaints about some of the Moderate and Deluxe resorts at WDW is their lack of dining options. Sure, they all have a table service spot but their quick service menus are way shorter than I’m used to at a Value Resort with their plethora of offerings. But I was spoiled for choice at the Riviera!
Table service options here include Toppolino’s Terrace (character breakfast or upmarket dinner), Bar Rive (bar and limited menu table service), Le Petite Cafe (pastry and coffees by day, nibbles and cocktails by night), and Primo Piatto (a quick-service option where food is prepared a la minute when you order).
Picky eaters may have a problem with the smaller menu at Primo Piatto vs. at Everything Pop but this Value Gal was in food-coma bliss.
Literally EVERYTHING we ate here (and we sampled everything except the gelato stand by the pool) was OUTSTANDING.
How did the experience rate, out of 10? Riviera – 9 / Value Resorts – 7
Did This Value Gal Become a Deluxe Devotee?
There is no denying that our stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort was amazing—even BETTER than I expected out of a Deluxe hotel at WDW.
But later in the trip, my eyes welled up with tears when we arrived for a tour of the Art of Animation, so I know that at heart, I’m still a Value Gal.
But now I’ve got an itch to scratch, a jetted tub to dream about, and piggy bank going to save up for my next Deluxe splurge at WDW.
How did the OVERALL experience rate? Riviera – 37 out of 40 / Value Resorts – 29 out of 40
Can’t wait to stay at Disney’s newest deluxe resort? Or are you more of a Value Resort fan? Either way, book your dream getaway today—just fill out this form to get a quote on your stay from our partners at Destinations to Travel!
Thanks to Disney for hosting us on a 3-night Resort Showcase where we got to tour and experience many of Walt Disney World’s resorts and restaurants, including Disney’s Riviera Resort. #wdwresorts #deliciousdisney