What You Need to Know About the Riviera Resort
For the first time since 2004, The Walt Disney Company has introduced a primarily Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort in Orlando. Yes, Disney’s Riviera Resort has finally opened. Here’s what you need to know now that it’s been open for a couple of weeks.
I didn’t major in Art History, so I feel like some of the Riviera’s design gets lost on me. Like many art neophytes, I know what I like, though. And I adore everything at the Riviera.
The beauty of this place will take your breath away as you walk through the resort for the first time. You’re most likely to visit via the Disney Skyliner, as the central hub for the entire system is only one stop away from the Riviera. So, when you enter the hotel grounds from the Skyliner, you’ll feel mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery.
Disney’s treated the walkway from this area as a kind of a selling point for potential DVC members. The sumptuous visuals on display here rival any on the Disney campus. A set of fountains rests between the paths, and a pair of engrossing murals line the walls.
One wall treatment recreates a famous scene from Tangled while the other celebrates the Neverland flight from Peter Pan. These images are so hypnotic that you may stand paralyzed for a time as you study them. The most fascinating part is that the murals double as arches that cross from one wall to the ceiling to the other wall.
As you traverse the facility, you’ll encounter a sitting lounge akin to a library. It’s a marvelous place to catch your breath while you get your bearings at the Riviera. This section also features Mickey Mouse memorabilia displays that set the tone for your visit.
The most significant décor at the Riviera is the wall art. The Disney family’s European vacations during the 1930s provide the inspiration for the resort’s theming. On some walls, you’ll find pictures of Walt, Lillian, and Roy O. Disney taken during these trips. And while you’re there, look for the French Impressionist take on Cinderella Castle!
The Riviera Resort seems like Imagineers imported Disney art from the Louvre. The artwork on display will impress you that much.
I wouldn’t describe the Riviera as possessing the most efficient rooms in the DVC lineup. That’s nitpicky, though. You’ll mainly notice when you spend most of your time in the room, which few Walt Disney World vacationers do.
The standard DVC studios have a few modern elements such as a subtle coat rack, one that blends in as background décor when not in use. Disney’s added some stylish recycling bins in the rooms that also look artistic enough to seem like something other than trash receptacles.
The bedroom and living room sections seem sumptuous due to the bright colors on display. Again, the wall art may be the aspect that impresses you the most. Hotel management has done a fantastic job of selecting Disney imagery as a jumping-off point for French paintings.
You may fall in love with the pictures so much that you want to buy them. And this is actually possible in the resort’s main store!
The bathrooms feature tasteful tiles you’ll notice as you approach. However, the most crucial bathroom element is the split design. A counter with a mirror and bathtub sits on one side while a gorgeous rainfall shower is on the other. Importantly, you can separate the two sides of the bathroom when someone needs to use the commode in the middle sections.
The Restaurant Quality
When Gran Destino Tower opened at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, guests shared lofty expectations for its rooftop restaurant. They believed that Toledo—Tapas, Steak & Seafood would become among the best at Walt Disney World. The heightened expectations led to some disappointment, as many described Toledo as not worth the high average meal price.
Thankfully, the Riviera Resort’s rooftop restaurant, Topolino’s Terrace—Flavors of the Riviera, has avoided the same fate. Instead, early guests have universally proclaimed it as what Toledo should have been—the best new Orlando restaurant in recent memory.
Even the harshest Disney critics have raved about the breakfast character meal here. Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends combines a prix fixe menu with the main four Disney characters.
You’ll hang out with Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Daisy Duck, and Donald Duck during breakfast. Their classic European outfits are adorable, and the food on display here will dazzle you with its decadence.
The one caveat involves the pricing. Disney’s listed Topolino’s as Signature Dining, which means that it costs two Table Service entitles on the Disney Dining Plan.
The other restaurants at the Riviera are something of a mixed bag. The lounge, Le Petit Café, has received a lot of attention for being overpriced with few food options. However, most of the people I’ve spoken with have really enjoyed the drinks.
The place where you’re most likely to dine during your stay is Primo Piatto, the Quick Service restaurant. While I’d expected a more conventional French/Italian menu, it’s relatively conventional with burgers and chicken sandwiches. The restaurant contrasts the standard fare with Croque Monsieur, Tomato Mozzarella Whole Wheat-Wrap, and plant-based Kids’ Linguini with Tomato Sauce.
The reviews of this place are middling to slightly above-average, thus far. Please keep in mind that a restaurant’s earliest days are when employees are still working out the kinks. Primo Piatto has a chance to evolve into something special in the coming months and years.
The Pools Are Ordinary
The next three segments might seem negative. My purpose here is to provide the most honest evaluation of a brand new resort. Often, the first few days are the roughest. Then, normalcy sets in as everyone knows what to expect.
Keeping that in mind, the negatives at the Riviera seem more noticeable than at other recent DVC developments. For starters, the consensus is that the pools look attractive but also seem somewhat cookie-cutter/bland in nature. The highlight is apparently, the main pool waterslide, which operates at breakneck speeds.
Disney finally listened to critics who have lamented the speed/quality of waterslides over the years. The one at the Riviera will get your adrenaline going. However, other than the waterslide and the nearby gelato stand, the pools have left guests yawning rather than fawning.
Personally, I quite like the S’il Vous Play water feature at the pool. It’s similar to the one at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in that the water reaches a tipping point and then spills onto guests. It strikes me as extremely child-friendly.
Beware of the Beds
Between the opening of the Disney Skyliner and the Riviera, it seems like Disney just can’t catch a break. First, the Skyliner tore up within a week of its debut, stranding guests in mid-air for upwards of three hours. Now, the Riviera couldn’t make it a single day without an incident.
A surprised guest learned the hard way that the hotel’s Murphy beds aren’t secure enough. The victim suffered a mishap when the in-wall Murphy bed fell. Disney officials believe that an installation error caused the accident.
To Disney’s credit, the Riviera posted an out-of-order sign on all of its Murphy beds. Then, the hotel staff personally checked each one at the hotel to ensure that the rest were correctly installed. Still, you might want to be careful of sitting under/near a Murphy bed, at least in the short term.
The Tower Studio Room Type Has Problems
One of the quirks of the internet is that universal agreement seems impossible. No matter how absurd an opinion is, there’s someone out there who will hold firm to that belief in the face of all arguments to the contrary. Until now.
DVC members and resort connoisseurs have finally found a topic where everyone’s opinion seems the same. People just don’t like the Tower Studio room.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Even the most vocal critics of the new room type agree that it’ll book near maximum capacity throughout the year. And almost everyone agrees that the idea of a smaller room is appealing. It’s the execution at the Riviera that people have called into question.
For whatever reason, Disney hasn’t maximized the space efficiently. I often point to Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort as an ideal example of how modest space feels larger when the floor plan is smart.
The opposite appears to be the case at the Riviera. Dissenters lament that the largest part of the hotel room is the bathroom. It seems purposelessly disproportionate, while the living room area feels tiny. In fact, I’ve spoken with a couple of smaller individuals who told me that they grew claustrophobic after a couple of hours.
The purpose of this room type is to evoke a feeling of intimacy among traveling couples. Instead, it causes some loved ones to ask their date to go stand out on the balcony. That’s the first step toward a breakup, not a scene from a romantic getaway.
Some DVC members had wondered whether the Riviera would impact the Disney Skyliner. When the new form of transportation opened, the hotel hadn’t opened yet. So, it’s a fair question about whether the new foot traffic will cause longer lines and more stress on the system.
Thus far, the situation seems about the same. The gondola system has experienced downtime on at least two occasions. I wouldn’t attribute that to the Riviera, though.
After what happened with the Skyliner during its first week, Disney officials shut down the system anytime the system experiences even a warning sign of a potential hiccup. In short, the gondolas are safe and convenient, but you may discover that they’re closed at some point during your visit.
The other amenity of note is a bit vague. The hotel grounds of the Riviera are absolutely sublime. The place is majestic, and cast members even went to the trouble of decorating the resort for the holidays. Remember that it opened less than 10 days before Christmas, but it’s had holiday decorations anyway.
Even when the holiday stuff comes down, you should wander around the Riviera. To reinforce the European theming, the grounds are immaculate, and Disney hosts several outdoor activities for guests. There’s even a giant bocce ball court here.
Disney encourages guests to spend time at the resort, enjoying the laid-back ambiance here. It provides an unprecedented amount of outdoor seating in certain areas. Some of them even reside by water features. The serenity of the Riviera will keep you coming back after your first stay.