The Good & The Bad - Disney's Riviera Resort

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The Good & The Bad is a series of posts we’ll be creating discussing the upsides and downsides of various resorts, and for our first one we’re choosing our DVC home resort of Riviera. Whilst we may be more than a little bias towards the resort, we do think that there are some minor shortcomings hiding beneath the modern Riviera inspired styling.

So lets jump into the first one:

Good - The Skyliner

It’s hard to argue that the Skyliner provides Riviera with exceptional transport options to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. In a short 10 minute gondola ride you can be at the gate of the parks, and in the case of EPCOT you are right in the middle of The World Showcase, entering at International Gateway between the UK and French pavilions.

Riviera is nicely placed on the Skyliner network, having a non-stop route to EPCOT and a single change at Caribbean Beach for reaching Hollywood Studios. The Skyliner station is only a short walk from the main building and the walkway to the resort is mostly covered allowing you to avoid those Floridian rains.

Most of the time the Skyliner isn’t busy, and you can easily hop on and ride without much wait. The hub at Caribbean Beach can get a little crowded as it converges visitors from several resorts and parks into one place, but you’ll rarely be queueing more than ten minutes to head off to your next destination.

Bad - The Skyliner

but, when it doesn’t work getting back from EPCOT and Holywood Studios can be a chore. If the Skyliner is unavailable due to inclement weather then you’ll have to take a bus back to the resort. A downside of this is that the replacement buses usually service all of the Skyliner resorts on the same bus. This isn’t the end of the world, as the other resorts (Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach) still have standard bus services to the park, its only Riviera that is exclusively the Skyliner unless something goes wrong.

For EPCOT the buses leave from the Beach Club Resort’s bus stop, which is a small walk from the Skyliner station. At Hollywood Studios the bus leaves from the furthest bus stop you can imagine at the bus station.

During our May 2022 stay, while at EPCOT, we had a storm that hit but it was expected to pass after a short time. The storm ended up hanging around and washed out the evening and we decided to ditch and head back to the resort, but the Skyliner was obviously inoperable. When we arrived at Beach Club to get the replacement bus we had no indication of which bus was going back to Riviera, and only after 10 or so minutes did we see someone who was able to direct us to a ‘Jiminy Cricket’ bus that was covering any drop-offs. Once we knew what to look for it wasn’t an issue, but a little bit of extra signage could help. Whilst we’re only a party of two, we could imagine a family trying to navigate that situation in the rain to be a tad more stressful.

Good - The Rooms

A preferred Studio at Disney’s Riviera Resort
A preferred Studio at Disney’s Riviera Resort - Image Credit: Disney Vacation Club

Riviera was one of the first ’new breed’ (as we like to call them) of DVC hotels. Since Riviera opened, DVC Resort refurbishments have all copied the same room styling to the point that Riviera is now the ‘standard’ for DVC rooms. Riviera studio rooms cover the basics as you would expect of any higher end hotel chain, and then take a step further with some tasteful Disney theming, a kitchenette, and a decent size bathroom.

For us, a studio presents a very comfortable large room with a sofa, table, and a decent sized king size bed. For families it can support five guests with the large, pull-down murphy double bed, and another single murphy under the television.

The one bedroom upwards expand further on this, adding more kitchen space, laundry facilities, larger bathrooms and en-suites for the separate rooms, all whilst keeping the murphy beds within the common areas.

In all of the rooms, there is ample wardrobe and cupboard space so even if every murphy bed was in use, you wouldn’t struggle with where to put your belongings.

Riviera is often accused of not being ‘Disney’ enough. The resort as a whole has very light touches of Disney branding as the concept of the hotel is built around Walt’s trips around the Riviera rather than just the usual IP injection. Disney artwork on the walls, and mosaics outside of the building are the only obvious Disney elements. If you’ve ever stayed in the Riviera, or in any european coastal resort, then Disney’s version will feel very comfortable and familiar. Its not for everyone, but for us its a winner.

Bad - The Lobby

The lobby is the target of a lot of complaints, mostly from people who are more used to the larger resorts like Port Orleans and the EPCOT resorts. Whilst we disagree with the vast majority of complaints, we do agree that the seating is lacking. Most lobbies on site are great for meeting and waiting for people, getting organised before you head out to the day, or just somewhere to relax and people watch.

Much like Bay Lake Tower, Disney seemed to have decided they want to funnel people out of the lobby as soon as they can into more interesting places in the resort. We believe the lobby sizes are decided on the basis of the number of rooms in the resort, if you think of Bay Lake Tower, it only has to service a small number of rooms compared to some of the other resorts.

On the popular arrival days, navigating the lobby can be troublesome as you have to avoid suitcases and people, and with the small size it can become quite packed in a short period of time. With Le Petite Cafe, La Boutique, the main entrance, and the DVC sale stand in the same space it feels like just a little too much in one place.

Good - The Food

Rigatoni at Topolino’s Terrace
Rigatoni at Topolino’s Terrace

Oh god, the food. In our opinion, Riviera has the best quick service of any resort; Primo Piatto. The selection of dishes, which have obviously been chosen to fit in with the resort, really sing.

Breakfast is a particular standout. Looking for a heavy breakfast to hold you over until a late lunch? Try the breakfast platter. Want something sweet? The blueberry-lemon pancakes are amazing. Looking for something a bit lighter? Then the continental breakfast for $7.99 is a steal.

If travel time between resorts wasn’t an issue then we’d end up at Primo Piatto several times during a visit to Walt Disney World. It has nailed the fine balance between price and quality and is up there with Flame Tree Barbqueue in our rating.

Le Petit Cafe is a small outlet off the lobby selling pastries and speciality coffees, with a few seats in the usual European coffee shop format. What really shines is that just next door to the cafe is the Voyageurs’ Lounge which provides plenty of space and seating to relax and enjoy the treats you’ve just purchased, but, most people miss this little space and rather chose to sit out in the lobby or outside the resort.

Topolino’s Terrace is a particular favourite of the resort, providing character breakfast during the morning, then changing to a ‘Signature Dining’ experience during the evening with the taste of the Riviera.

Pre-pandemic the breakfast menu was expansive and interesting, and would frequently hit the upper tier of top 10 lists across the internet. However, since 2020 the breakfast experience was re-defined, reduced, and people started to question if it was worth the price. It used to be a fixed price breakfast with a selection of two entrées, but now (as of June 2024) its a $49 single entrée and a choice of nine dishes. Personally, we think its still worth it for the character experience at Topolino’s, but the food selection may be better elsewhere, especially for fussy eaters.

Dinner, on the other hand, hasn’t changed much since 2020. The menu is a great selection of French and Italian inspired dishes, and available wines and drinks are fantastic. Particular highlights for us was the Rigatoni (pictured above) and the ‘Modern Fashioned’ cocktail.

Bad - The Shop

For DVC members, you have some expectation of what you should be able to purchase from the resort shop. For example, in Saratoga Springs you have a reasonable selection of refrigerated foods, essentials, and consumable items available for purchase. At La Boutique at Riviera, the selection is pared-down and feels more like a shop on a Disney Cruise line ship rather than a resort hotel. Some expanded refrigerated food options are available from Primo Piatto, but nowhere near the scale or options that you can see in some of the other resorts. Now this may be due to the lack of physical space available for the shop itself, but it was quite a shock coming from Saratoga or the Contemporary resort’s equivalent shop.

As just a standard resort shop it fulfils the brief, providing a easy place to pickup some resort merchandise, an emergency stroller, or a last minute poncho. The cast members are always upbeat and willing to help anyone, but with only one or two cast members assigned to the shop you can queue sometimes just to complete a simple purchase. This isn’t a complaint about the CMs, more that in the small space Disney have tried to squeeze in too much, including a printable artwork station that usually causes some questions and queries by people trying to purchase some of the Riviera’s lovely artwork. Swapping the shop with the space occupied by Voyageurs’ Lounge and Le Petit Cafe would help considerably.

For more of our Good & Bad series check out the The Good & The Bad section.

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