One of the first decisions you need to make for a Walt Disney World vacation is where you will stay.  While you are sure to have a magical time at any Walt Disney World resort, there are some factors to consider before booking.  

In this article we will look at two popular resorts, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort to help you decide which is the best Disney World hotel for you and your family.

Disney Caribbean Beach Resort is a tropical themed resort that resembles the Caribbean Islands.  The color scheme is vibrant and reminiscent of the sun and sea, and evokes a calm, tranquil feeling.  This 200 acre resort surrounds a 45-acre lake called Barefoot Bay.  At the center of Barefoot Bay is an island known as Caribbean Cay.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort is made up of two distinct resorts, French Quarter and Riverside.  Of the two, Riverside is slightly cheaper per night and most comparable to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.  Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside is situated along the banks of the Sassagoula River and with its lush landscape and leisurely atmosphere, you’ll feel as if you have just stepped into the Louisiana Bayou.

Location

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is located in the EPCOT area and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside is located in the Disney Springs area.  These two areas are relatively close to one another, therefore the travel time from each resort to the Orlando International Airport and the parks is just about the same.  

It is important to note, however, that because of its size, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort requires an internal bus system.  This can increase the travel time, depending on where in the resort you are.  It is not uncommon to have to make several stops while still at the resort before even making it to an external bus headed to the parks.   

Transportation Options

Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort can take advantage of complimentary transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport aboard Disney’s Magical Express.  Additionally, there are many transportation options in and around Walt Disney World.  While most are complimentary, there are some that require an added fee.  

For example, Disney Minnie Van service, which is provided by Lyft, is available to all Disney World guests for a fee.  You can reserve a ride to anywhere on Disney World property as well as to and from the Orlando International airport. Both Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort offer bus service to and from all Walt Disney World parks, water parks and entertainment areas, including Disney Springs. There are also travel options that are unique to each resort.  

At Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, guests can enjoy the newly constructed Disney Skyliner.  This is an aerial gondola that connects the resort to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. At Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, you can take a short boat ride to Disney Springs.  

Room Rates and Accommodations

Walt Disney World has three main resort categories: value, moderate, and deluxe.  Both Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort fall in the moderate category, with Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort at a slightly lower rate per night.  Caribbean Beach Resort offers three types of rooms, standard, preferred and pirate and at 340 square feet, they are the largest rooms in the moderate category.  

There are five areas referred to as “villages”  at this resort. Each village is named after a Caribbean island – Martinique Barbados, Trinidad,Jamaica, and Aruba.  Most standard rooms sleep four, with a few offering a 5th sleeper Murphy bed.  The preferred rooms sleep up to five.  Pirate rooms, which are themed as their name would imply, sleep up to four guests.  

Port Orleans Riverside also offers three types of rooms, standard, preferred and royal. There are two main areas in this resort, Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend.  Alligator Bayou rooms sleep up to five guests with two queen beds and one Murphy bed.  The Murphy bed is best suited for younger children as it is just 66 inches long.  

In Magnolia Bend, there are two types of rooms, Royal and Standard.  These rooms have two queen beds and sleep four.  The royal rooms are themed with Disney Princesses in mind.

All rooms at both resorts offer the same amenities: a hairdryer, internet with free WiFi service, a coffee maker, a telephone with voicemail, an in-room safe, an iron and ironing board and a mini-refrigerator. 

Dining

There are many dining options at both resorts including a food court, sit down restaurants, lounges and poolside bars.   Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort’s newly renovated Port Royale is the hub of the resort, and where you will find the front desk, store and dining options.  Within Port Royale is Sebastian’s Bistro, a casual, sit-down restaurant featuring Latin and seafood cuisine.  

As with most sit-down restaurants, it is highly recommended that guests make dining reservations in advance.  Centertown Market and Centertown Market Grab & Go offer quick service breakfast and dinner menu options with island flavors.  Here is where you will also find specialty coffee and quick bites to go.  Spyglass Grill, located in the Trinidad Pool Area, is a casual walk-up counter serving American fare with a Caribbean twist.  Banana Cabana, the resorts walk-up bar offers tropical drinks, beer, sangria and nonalcoholic drinks as well as quick bites.  

The Port Orleans Riverside Resort also has a main hub where guests can find most of the dining options.  Boatwright’s Dining Hall, which features American Fare inspired by Southern Louisiana cooking, is only open for dinner.  As with Sebastian’s Bistro at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, advance dining reservations are highly recommended.   

Next door is Riverside Mill, a food court offering six stations that include a bakery, a grill, pizza, pasta, salads and a carving station, as well as grab ‘n’ go items.   There are two bars at this resort.  The first, with a full bar and light snacks, is found on the other side of Boatwright’s Dining Hall.  It is popular among guests for the cabaret show featuring Yehaa Bob.  

The other bar is located poolside at Ol’ Man Island and menu items include specialty drinks, beer, wine, sangria and nonalcoholic beverages.  As mentioned earlier, this resort is connected to Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, so guests staying here have the option to dine at either resort hotel.  Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter reflects the charm of New Orleans and the excitement of Mardi Gras, so guests can expect cajun and creole cuisine.

Both resorts offer room delivery service and ordering ahead options.  Ordering ahead is made possible with the My Disney Experience App.  From the app, you will order, pay and notify the restaurant when you arrive.  When you order is ready, you will receive a notification and simply  head to the pick-up counter.

Recreation

There are many recreational activities available at both resorts  From pools to playgrounds to movies under the stars, there is something for everyone. Every “village” at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has a pool, for a total of five leisure pools.  There is also a main pool called Fuentes del Morro Pool, which is themed to look like a Spanish fortress.  There are two water slides and water cannons for interactive play.  There is also a kids’ water play area that looks like a shipwreck and a twelve person spa pool.

 Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside also has six pools – one main and five leisure.  The main pool is the central feature at Ole’ Man Island, a three and a half acre area that also includes the Muddy Rivers pool bar as well as a kiddie pool, whirlpool tub, a playground and fishing hole.  The main pool looks like an abandoned saw mill and has a 95 foot long water slide.

Both resorts offer complimentary movies under the stars, featuring a Disney movie, as well as a campfire, complete with roasting marshmallows. Other activities offered at both resorts include bike rentals, jogging trails and fishing.  Bike rentals at Port Orleans – Riverside include surrey bike options.  If  you’ve never ridden a surrey bike, you should try renting one here!  It is so much fun.  

Options include a two-person, four-person or six-person.  The jogging paths at both resorts are paved and wind through the beautifully landscaped resorts.  At Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, the path is about .6 miles long, while at Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside, it is a mile.  

Bass fishing excursions, presented by TakeMeFishing.org are available at both resorts, and are guided. Dockside fishing is also available at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside.  As will all fishing at Walt Disney World, fishing is catch and release at these resorts.  Reservations are recommended and can be made 180 days prior. 

Each resort also offers recreational activities that are unique to that resort.  For example, at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, you can play a friendly game of beach volleyball on the Martinique sands.  For children aged 4 to 12, this resort also hosts a Pirate Adventure Cruise. On a Pirate Adventure Cruise, “Scallywags” will follow clues to uncover hidden treasure. 

The adventure includes stops at other resort marinas or “ports of call” where they will hear legends of pirates, search for clues, and enjoy a snack (usually Goldfish crackers or pretzels and water or juice).  There is an adventure for older children, ages 10 to 16, as well.  “The Unsolved Mysteries of Barefoot Bay” is a pirate themed scavenger hunt that takes place on Thursday evenings from 8:00 to 9:30.  Guests will try to solve the mystery of Captain Calico’s disappearance

Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside also offers unique recreational activities, including horse-drawn carriage rides.  Rides take place along the Sassagoula River and are approximately 25 minutes.  Carriages seat up to four adults or two adults and three small children.  Reservations are recommended and can be made 180 days prior.  There is also an arcade at this resort.  Family friendly games can be found at Colonel’s Cotton Mill building.  

As a guest of Disney’s Port Orleans, you are able to use the recreational facilities and participate in the activities at both Riverside and French Quarter.  If you rent a bike, for example, you can ride throughout both sides of the resort.  You can also use the pools, arcades, playgrounds and jogging paths at both.

Amenities

Both Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside Resort offer the following amenities: In-Room Celebrations,, complimentary WiFi, parking, online check-in, resort airline check-in, an ATM, banking, childcare services, designated smoking areas, laundry and dry cleaning services, mail services, and merchandise delivery and pick-up.

In-Room Celebrations

If you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, holiday, your first visit or just about anything,  in-room celebrations will help make the occasion more magical.  Guests can choose from a variety of options offered by Disney Floral and Gifts to transform your room to an even more magical experience!

Parking

There is overnight self-parking for registered guests available at both resorts for a fee of $20 per night.  Parking is complimentary to anyone who visits either resort for dining, shopping, entertainment or recreational experiences.

Online Check-In

Both resorts offer Online Check-In,  which is a complimentary service.  Simply log into your My Disney Experience account and choose online check in.  Because the app/account are connected to the Magic Band, guests can use the Unlock Door feature, and may be able to bypass the front desk. 

Resort Airline Check-In

Guests departing from Orlando International Airport on one of the following airlines: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines (U.S. Domestic Flights Only), JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines orUnited Airlines can take take advantage of Resort Airline Check-in.  

Just visit the resort’s Airline Check-in Desk and let Disney do the rest!  They will collect your bags and print your boarding passses for you.  Once at the airport, you can report directly to security.

ATM

Both resorts have an ATM machine that is available 24 hours a day.  At Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, the ATM is located in Old Port Royale.  At Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, the ATM can be found at Colonel’s Cotton Mill building.  

The following cards are accepted at both locations:  American Express, MasterCard, Visa, Discover/Novus, Cirrus, Plus, Star and Honor. A service fee will be charged to cardholders on withdrawals using cards not issued by Chase.

Banking

Guests who require the exchange of foreign currencies can do so at the Front Desk or Lobby Concierge.

Childcare Services

In-room babysitting is available for guests six months to twelve years old.  This service is provided by the professional childcare providers at Kid’s Nite Out and takes place in your Walt Disney World Resort hotel room.  The cost of this service depends on the number of children, up to four.  

One child would be $18 per hour, for two the rate is $21, three is $24 and four children is $26.  If babysitting is needed past 9:00 pm, an extra fee of $2 per hour will be assessed.  Reservations are recommended and can be made up to 30 days prior. 

Kid’s Nite Out also offers in-park assistance.  A childcare specialist will assist you and your family in the parks as needed.

Designated Smoking Areas

Smoking is not permitted in any Walt Disney World Resort hotel, but all Walt Disney World Resort hotels provide designated smoking areas.  

Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services

Both resorts offer 24-hour self service laundry rooms.  At Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, laundry rooms can be found next to the five quiet pools throughout the resort.  At Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, the laundry rooms are also found throughout the villages of the resort.  

There is one in Aruba, and two in each of the other villages – Jamaica, Martinique, Barbados and Trinidad.  Tokens are available for purchase right in the laundry rooms.

Both resorts also offer dry cleaning services.  Laundry bags are located in guest rooms along with a pricing list.  At Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, you can schedule a pick up by calling housekeeping.  At Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, dry cleaning should be dropped off with Bell Services by 9:00 AM. 

Mail Services

Guests staying at either resort can send and receive packages from the resort.  If you plan to send mail, just be sure it is pre-stamped.  Stamps can be purchased at select gift shops throughout Walt Disney World.  Mail sent to guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort will incur a $6 fee for handling.  Please note, this also applies to having groceries sent to your room.

Merchandise Delivery and Pickup

Walt Disney World offers merchandise,  purchased in any of the Walt Disney World parks or on the Shop Disney Parks app to be delivered to all Walt Disney World Resort hotels.  This service is complimentary.  

Packages delivered to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort can be picked up at Concierge in Barbados.  Packages delivered to Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside can be picked up at Fulton’s General Store. 

My family and I have stayed at both Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort, and while they are quite comparable to one another, we preferred Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside.  

We stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort during an off-peak time in October and did not think it felt crowded at all.  That being said, we stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside during a peak time in February and it felt quieter than our stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.  

We also liked the lobby and dining area of Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside better than the one at Disney’s Caribbean Beach.  The food court was not overly crowded or loud and we were never unable to find a place to sit.  We especially like our dining experience at Boatwright’s Dining Hall.  

In fact, Boatwright’s Dining Hall was one of the best Disney dining experiences we have had at Walt Disney World.  The food was amazing and the service was great!  Our server was thoughtful, patient and funny.  We ate dinner there on our first night at the resort and it really set the stage for an awesome week.  As a matter of fact, I made a point to write a commendation for our waiter, something I have never done before.

Both resorts feature a main pool and leisure pools for each building, which is nice.  And the main pools at both are generally busier than the leisure pools.  It was nice to be able to go to the pool near our building at both resorts and be the only ones there.  We took advantage of being able to also use the pool at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter resort, as well.  This pool was great!  It was not overly crowded and it had a large, very entertaining water structure for younger children.

One of the main reasons we liked our stay better at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside was because of the convenience of its location and the size of the resort.  As I mentioned earlier, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is quite large and because of that, it has its own internal bus system.  If you want to take a bus to a park, you often have to make several stops within the resort before you can even board an external bus headed for the parks.  

In comparison, most places are accessible by a short walk at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and there is even a short boat ride aboard Sassagoula River Cruise to Disney Springs ,which we really enjoyed.  Despite both resorts being about the same distance from EPCOT and Disney Springs, the travel time from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is often longer when traveling by bus.

We absolutely enjoyed our stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, but there are small differences between the two resorts that made a big difference in our experiences.  

Top 5 Reasons to Stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

  1. Disney Skyliner!
  2. The main pool
  3. The price
  4. The recreational activities
  5. The proximity to the parks

Top 5 Reasons to Stay at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

  1. The beautiful landscaping
  2. The pools and access to Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter pools
  3. The food – especially Boatwright’s Dining Hall
  4. The price
  5. The Sassagoula River Cruise

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