Disney’s moderate hotels are a small collection of resorts that bridge the price and stylistic gaps between the value and deluxe resorts. In this post, we discuss the moderate resorts, including the basic things to know about them, reasons to stay at moderate resorts, and, of course, the ranking of all four of Disney World’s moderate resorts!
We’ve reorganized our hotel content to be more targeted for what readers specifically want in a given post. It used to be all in a single post, and that was unwieldy and messy. Besides the reviews of every hotel (links are found later in this post), we now have the following posts:
Complete Guide to Disney World Hotels — post to start picking your hotel and for understanding the key differences between the different hotels at Disney World
Benefits of Staying at a Disney Hotel — covers the perks associated with Disney hotels
Best Disney World Value Hotels — in-depth mostly objective look at and ranking of the value resorts
Best Disney World Moderate Hotels (this post) — in-depth mostly objective look at and ranking of the moderate resorts
Best Disney World Deluxe Hotels — in-depth mostly objective look at and ranking of the deluxe resorts
Ranking of the Best Disney World Hotels — our subjective ranking of all the Disney hotels
If you’re looking for an introduction with quick, practical information about all the hotels, check out the guide post. If you’re looking for more detailed analysis, visit the different categorical rankings (like this one). And if you just want to know what two people who do this for a living think of every hotel, check out that last link.
Disney World Moderate Resort Basics
If you’d like to skip to the rankings, just click here. Otherwise, we’ll start with some basic things to know about the moderate resorts.
There are four moderate resorts at Walt Disney World: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans — French Quarter, and Port Orleans — Riverside. Standard rooms at the moderate resorts price from $223 to $400 per night (including tax) for 2020.
Like the value resorts, Disney moderate resorts (with limited exceptions) have “motel-style” doors—facing outside with no inside hallways. Also like the value resorts, each has a food court, usually offering something close to American fare—pizza, burgers, sandwiches, etc. But unlike the value resorts, and like the deluxe resorts, all but one of the moderate resorts has at least one table service restaurant.
As for theme, Disney moderate resorts are sort of closer to the deluxe resorts than the value resorts—not in terms of depth, but at least in terms of style. You won’t see any giant statues of Disney characters or giant Coca Cola cups at these resorts. You’ll see more subtle design elements chosen to reflect the theme.
For us, the moderate resorts—except for French Quarter—really shoot themselves in the foot with awful transportation. Because they carry such large footprints and are built around lakes, Riverside, Caribbean Beach, and Coronado Springs are all serviced by buses that make multiple stops. Caribbean Beach has lessened this problem somewhat with the introduction of the Disney Skyliner.
Important Note About Driving
If you have a car at Disney World, you may find the moderate resorts significantly more tolerable, as there tends to be parking available near each building. You will have to pay the hotel parking fee ($20 per night as of publication), but you will get free parking at the theme parks.
Reasons to Stay at Disney Moderate Resorts
If you’re already set on the moderate resorts and want to skip to the ranking, click here. While in our value and deluxe rankings we have a whole “reasons to picks this category” list, we don’t feel as strongly about the moderate resorts.
It’s hard to articulate, but basically we don’t think there’s a “sweet spot” at the moderate resorts in terms of price and quality—for us, the value and deluxe resorts offer much clearer trade-offs.
If the deluxe resorts are in our price range for a trip, we don’t consider the moderate resorts a viable alternative. For the most part, we wouldn’t step down to the moderates to save money. (Gran Destino Tower is maybe an exception to this.)
But on trips when price is an issue, you’ll be choosing between the moderate resorts and the value resorts. The main reason we ever pick the moderate resorts over the value resorts is theming.
You can look at the pictures of all the value and all the moderate resorts—if being surrounded by gigantic colorful figures isn’t your style, you’ll probably prefer the moderate resorts.
Room size is something of a perk—but how much? We’ve stayed in value rooms with four adults. It wasn’t great, but it also was only for about 30 minutes before bed and 30 minutes before leaving in the morning.
If you need extra space for getting ready, two people get ready while two get breakfast, then you swap. Either way, an extra 10% to 20% space doesn’t really attract us to the moderate resorts.
Slightly better food courts and an okay table service restaurant don’t really move the needle for us. If dining options are important, you’re mostly going to need to stick to deluxe resorts or to eating outside your hotel (which is a good option anywhere, honestly).
Granted, the worst rooms in the values—at All-Star Music, Sports, and some of Movies—are easily beaten by the rooms across the moderate. But the best value rooms—Pop Century and some of All-Star Movies—are inferior only to Coronado Springs across these two categories.
As for price, you will find times when an ongoing offer at a moderate bring it into competition with available value rates. While we will take French Quarter and maybe Riverside over Pop Century at comparable rates, we’ll usually pick Pop over Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach at similar rates.
It’s finally worth noting that if you’re interested in going up to the deluxe resorts, keep in mind those have a huge price range. There’s a wide gap between a peak night at Grand Floridian and an off-season, discounted rate at Wilderness Lodge.
Disney World Moderate Resort Rankings
With only four resorts, ranking the moderate resorts isn’t such a challenge. By the end of 2019, they’ll all offer something over the others, and we’ll be updating this post as changes happen.
Like our other ranking posts, the top spot gets the most discussion because we lay out how it compares to the other hotels. That said, with each moderate offering something unique, you’ll only get a complete picture reading the entire list. For more pictures of each resort, and for a walkthrough of a room at each resort, click through to the reviews.
And as with our value and deluxe rankings, we try and keep this somewhat objective. Even though we might prefer some small touches here and there, this list focuses mostly on the things that will most significantly impact your vacation.
1. Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
2020 Rates (Standard Rooms): $246 - $392
Review of Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
Port Orleans French Quarter is our pick as best moderate Disney Resort.
Port Orleans French Quarter is one of the two “Port Orleans” resorts at Walt Disney World. The other, Riverside, is next on this list. It’s worth quickly explaining the names.
The two hotels used to be completely unrelated, with wholly different names. French Quarter was “Disney’s Port Orleans Resort,” and Riverside was “Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort.” In early 2001, for reasons not publicly acknowledged—but also not exactly shocking—Dixie Landings was rebranded, and the names of the hotels were changed to what they are today.
While you should confirm with the hotel before booking, most reports indicate this is the only situation in which guests of one hotel can use another hotel’s pool (Yacht Club and Beach Club, of course, share a single pool). This makes some sense, given that the names both begin “Disney’s Port Orleans Resort.”
Nevertheless, they are booked separately, have different check-ins, and are physically separate hotels. The pool sharing also isn’t a huge perk of either hotel. For these reasons, we consider them separately for the purpose of this post.
French Quarter has a lot going for it. It’s a beautiful resort, and the New Orleans detailing is wonderfully executed. It hits the sweet spot between “grown up” and “fun” better than any resort, which is maybe just a benefit of the chosen theme.
With no table service restaurant on-site, guests are left to either boat to Disney Springs (a great trip to make) or to walk a few minutes over to Port Orleans — Riverside. This is probably the only real flaw we find in this resort, though.
What really sets Port Orleans — French Quarter apart not only from the other moderate resorts, but from every other resort at Walt Disney World, is its intimate charm. With just over 1000 rooms, Port Orleans — French Quarter is the smallest of the moderate resorts. It’s also smaller than any of the value resorts.
The longest walk from the main building to a room at French Quarter is 5 minutes. At Riverside, it’s 9 minutes. Head over to Caribbean Beach and you’ll see something similar, with the longest walk being 11 minutes.
That’s a small difference (though maybe not with luggage and kids in tow), but it’s also worth noting that most rooms at Riverside are more than five minutes from the main building, while none at French Quarter are.
For the most part, French Quarter has its own bus that makes a single stop at the resort. This is a stark departure from the other moderate resorts, all of which utilize multiple bus stops. And it’s this advantage that really puts French Quarter in the top spot on this list.
Multiple bus stops aren’t the worst thing in the world, but keep in mind that some mornings the 10 minutes of extra travel time can cost you 30 minutes—or more—of wait time for your first ride. Disney’s bus transportation is already less than ideal—adding multiple stops doesn’t help.
French Quarter sometimes shares buses with Riverside, but this is rare. Either way, having a single stop most of the time (especially during peak hours) beats never having a single stop by a longshot.
As far as room quality, French Quarter is just about in the middle of the pack. French Quarter recently had a soft refurbishment that brought wood floors, improved TVs, and some other small changes.
The rooms are about the same quality as the new Riverside rooms and the Caribbean Beach rooms. Coronado Springs has the newest rooms and the best rooms in this category, while the old Riverside rooms (which are currently being refurbished) lag behind.
2. Coronado Springs Resort
Coronado Springs is a tough one to rank. Honestly, the Gran Destino Tower is probably our favorite moderate option. The aesthetic might not be for everyone. But we enjoy the design, along with the modernity of the Tower and the rooms. Give it time and a few more stays, and we might pick it as the best moderate Disney resort.
But before Gran Destino, we had Coronado Springs below Port Orleans Riverside. The hotel is pretty strongly geared toward conference guests which impacts the hotel in subtle ways. For example, it houses a sports bar, Rix Sports Bar and Grill, that’s more like ESPN Zone than anything you’d expect to see inside a Disney hotel.
That said, the hotel isn’t devoid of the family-centric identity that drives Disney. The Dig Site pool area is often regarded as one of Disney’s better pools, for example.
The real highlight of Coronado Springs is the rooms. These are the best rooms at the moderate level, having received a hard refurbishment in 2018. Gran Destino rooms are even newer and are also excellent.
Like Port Orleans — Riverside, the transit situation at Coronado Springs is poor. The resort is huge and buses make multiple stops. But that’s the thing—if you’re a conference guest, a high quality room and a sports bar are a lot more important than bus times to Magic Kingdom for rope drop.
3. Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
2020 Rates (Standard Rooms): $246 - $392
2020 Rates (Royal Rooms): $304 - $449
Review of Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
By a mile, Riverside is the most beautiful of the moderate resorts. I don’t really care that the “mansions” aren’t actually housing the best rooms on property, they’re still really cool to look at.
While in terms of general guest experience, the size of Port Orleans — Riverside is a challenge, it also makes the resort perfect for a “slow” visit. A walk around Riverside is unlike a walk around any other Disney hotel, with the bayou and mansion scenery really impressing throughout.
Outside of transit, the room situation is currently (mid-2019) a mixed bag. We suggest visiting the very helpful PortOrleans.org to learn more about the status of the room refurbishments.
So far, our impression is that the new rooms are about the same quality as the French Quarter rooms, which most recently underwent a similar “soft” refurbishment.
We’re most interested to see what happens to the Royal Guest Rooms. As our review noted, while these are really cool rooms, they’re also in poor shape. It isn’t shocking that these rooms wear more quickly—they’re more complex, and have more patterned surfaces and detailing.
Given the premium the Royal Guest rooms charge, we really think Disney needs to give them a hard refurbishment. That said, most guests seem more blown away by the design than disappointed with the wear.
If you don’t mind the extra transit and don’t need the newest rooms, Riverside is a fantastic pick. We’ll probably be waiting until all the rooms are refurbished to visit, but you might be able to get a room request in (using PortOrleans.org as a guide).
4. Caribbean Beach Resort
2020 Rates (Standard Rooms): $230 - $400
2020 Rates (Pirate Rooms): $315 - $461
Review of Caribbean Beach Resort
Caribbean Beach resort has had substantial work done over the past few years, transforming the lobby area and main building. The food court is one of our favorites, the table service restaurant is also good, and the lobby is beautiful as well (though arguably not as good as the new lobby at Coronado).
The rooms also received a soft refurbishment, which puts them in the same quality as French Quarter and the new Riverside rooms, but short of the new Coronado Springs rooms.
While Caribbean Beach has some scenery to it, it definitely doesn’t compare to Port Orleans — Riverside. This is partly a result of the theme. Caribbean Beach sort of just feels like another “Florida” hotel. This actually might work fine for many guest, to be fair.
With average rooms, average scenery, and average transit, Caribbean Beach falls into the number four spot by default—it simply doesn’t excel anywhere. Will that change soon?
Well, the Disney World Skyliner is scheduled to open September 29. That will connect Caribbean Beach to Epcot and Hollywood Studios without the need for a bus. That might help, but here’s the rub—you still have to get all the way to the Skyliner, and who knows what lines will look like.
This sort of highlights why the size of the Disney moderate resorts other than French Quarter is just inescapable. You might not be stuck on a bus making a bunch of stops once the Skyliner opens, but you also might have a ten-minute walk to the Skyliner queue.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
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