Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel embodies a new era for Disney where adults are catered to just as much as children and families.
Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel is the newest freestanding resort hotel to open at Disney’s Orlando campus in seven long years. The Riviera is unlike ANY current Disney property resort my family and I have stayed at previously, in that Riviera is ostensibly straddling the line between catering to adults, while remaining a family friendly venue Disney is known for. Most current Disney resorts are a submersion of cartoon characters upon arrival, and while I visit Disney annually for the intention of being taken back to my childhood, Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel plunges visitors instantly into the grandeur of old Europe, and combines that experience with a sizable pinch of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.
A stunning tribute and intentional spotlight on Walt Disney himself is the steady pulse at Riviera. Every detail, right down to the dishes on the menus at this resort’s dining venues, are takeaways from Walt and Lillian Disney’s grand tour of Europe back in 1935. Disney fans will give pause when viewing the large collection of black and white photos of Walt’s sorties abroad arranged throughout Rivieras lobby area and lounge. The resort’s layout is sumptuous and elegant. Thoughtful design nuances remind us of the man who came into our living rooms every Sunday night to tell heartening bedtime stories with his tales and characters and most brilliant imagination.
From the moment we pulled up to Valet, to the day our Bellman John walked us out for our unavoidable departure, we were catered to in the most thoughtful ways. And not by just one or two cast members, but by everyone we encountered.
Regardless of theme, most Disney World resorts are openly geared toward families and children. Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel breaks that mold. And while my family and I absolutely shared this new destination with plenty of families with children during our stay, the richness of the décor and eye-soothing colors in this European and Mediterranean themed statement of splendor was less character focused, and a whole lot more luxury centered. The exceedingly gracious and accommodating demeanor of the Riviera staff cannot go without being mentioned. From the moment we pulled up to Valet, to the day our Bellman John walked us out for our unavoidable departure, we were catered to in the most thoughtful ways. And not by just one or two cast members, but by everyone we encountered.
Riviera is synonymous with ‘above and beyond.’ One example of this was Rebecca, a friendly staffer we encountered during breakfasts in the hotel’s quick service venue, Primo Piatto. My Mom and I went down alone on the final full day of our stay, minus Dad. He was upstairs in the room, sick with something awful enough where he wouldn’t make it out of the bed the entire day. Rebecca inquired about my father during our meal and upon learning of his status, arranged to have a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup and Saltines sent to the room within the hour. And that soup…delivered to the room by the Chef himself. I was astounded.
The service and food at Walt Disney World's Riviera Resort were outstanding.
Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel is a Disney Vacation Club property, which is Disney’s rendering of what a timeshare looks like in 2020. Admittedly, I do not understand the particulars behind the Disney Vacation Club, however a stay at this property by no means requires the purchase of Vacation Club points. In fact, I booked directly with Walt Disney World Guest Relations and easily reserved our rooms, dining plan, and park passes and was thrilled at how effortless it was to guarantee it all despite the rumors surrounding the opening week resort sell-out coupled with it being Christmas. Just plan at least six months ahead to have an opportunity at availability.
Christmas at Walt Disney World's Riviera Hotel was pure splendor...and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Keep in mind that there are different styles of rooms, too. Room styles dictate price. Our story was somewhat of a funny one in that we had booked the more inexpensive of the room styles, termed by Disney as a Tower Studio. Upon arrival, we were shown to our rooms, a hefty walking distance from the main lobby and eateries. Ours were in a small, three-room area off a main hallway. The doors to the rooms were heavy, and as a result, in just the few minutes we stood there waiting for the bellman to offload our luggage, you heard those heavy doors shutting every time neighboring guests entered or exited their rooms.
Later that same evening, I received a call on my cell from a Disney cast member apologizing for the need to move us to new rooms, the result of inspections related to the Tower Studio rooms Murphy beds. I’d never stayed in a room that didn’t have an actual bed, and as a designer, was intrigued initially by the design of Murphy beds in the Tower rooms. But as fate would have it, we would be whisked away from the smallest guest rooms in all of Disney World, around 220 square feet, and relocated to adjoining HUGE three-room Grand Villas that exceeded expectations.
The giant wall-mounted TVs in both the living room area and in the bedroom had Disney movies on demand. The full kitchen was exactly that – a full, full kitchen with everything imaginable appointed for a homey stay. A full-size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, dishwasher, toaster and coffee station, and drawers and cabinets stocked with everything right down to the butter knives. If I’d wanted to broil a steak during the visit, there was even a broiler pan in the oven ready to go to work…did I mention the high efficiency washer and dryer?
You could play chess or Bocce, or just take it all in from a comfortable porch swing in the resort’s enticing common lawn.
All in all, and after seeing the smallest of the Riviera rooms that were the Studio Towers designed for just two people, I was grateful for Disney’s bad luck on the Murphy bed inspection issue and the need to move us. While I had no issues with the Tower Studio room, especially at the lowest price point for this resort, it’s not something I’d promote for anybody asking me my opinion. I realize of course that none of us book Disney to hang around in the room, but in our case, and especially because my father became ill, the Tower rooms for us would have been just too small. Paying extra for the Grand Villa would be money certainly well spent unless you are truly comfortable in confined quarters.
In short, the Disney Skyliner is a complete game-changer, linking Riviera Resort, Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
One of the many great things about Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel is that it’s on the new Disney Skyliner route. I plan to write another post on Skyliner in the coming weeks, as I’ve received so many questions on it. In short, this newest method of transportation to the Disney Orlando campus is a complete game-changer, linking Riviera Resort, Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Riviera Resort has its own station, where you can board this brilliant gondola system to either go directly to Epcot or to the Caribbean Beach Resort. From Caribbean, you can transfer to an adjoining Skyliner to Hollywood Studios or the Pop resorts. If Magic Kingdom is your destination, you can take Skyliner from Riviera to Epcot and transfer from there to the monorail that goes to Magic Kingdom, however it is a bit of a hike from just across from France in the Grand Showcase to the entrance beyond Spaceship Earth. Keep this in mind if you have dining reservations in Magic Kingdom and choose to use Skyliner as part of your means of getting there.
Arranging a play date with the Main Mouse can equal only one outcome - extreme fun!
I would be remiss if I did not emphasize the pièce de résistance of our stay at Walt Disney World’s Riviera Hotel. Topolino’s Terrace, Italian for “baby mouse,” is located on the top floor of the east wing of this hotel. The views of the broader Disney campus from up here are overwhelming and make a person realize just how incredible Walt Disney’s vision for this ground really was. Topolino’s had an expansive bar in addition to the ample indoor seating area, and then a breathtaking outdoor patio which featured a bar cart. Again, Disney’s keen answer to a resort not just for kids.
Since we arrived Christmas Eve, and I was a bit late in getting around to reserving our table service dining, I was unable to secure a Christmas Eve reservation. I kicked myself for months and tried desperately to change the Christmas morning Character Breakfast I’d accepted instead, but soon came to realize this was the highlight of this resort. Mickey, Minnie and Daisy Duck in European-style attire entertained us for what would be the most engaging fun and bountiful breakfast of our stay. As much as I wished we’d been able to dine at Topolinio’s for dinner, this character breakfast was over the top. Even my father got into the action, more than one selfie with his fave mouse being taken.
Walt Disney World's Riviera Resort is not only a fabulous old world European-style experience, but an experience at a much loved theme park we all know and love. I highly recommend making a stop here during your next trip to Disney, if not to stay, then definitely to dine. My family and I did not encounter one element of this resort that we did not love, and feel certain that the Riviera will continue to please for decades to come.