It’s been a few weeks since Disney’s Riviera Resort opened, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the resort.
On occasion, I like to put a little distance between me and a review. This is especially true with things like the grand opening of a hotel. You can get caught up in the excitement and anticipation, and as is the case with most fanboys, I can let that cloud my judgment. I find it’s usually a good idea to wait, process and see how I feel once the glow wears off.
First and foremost, it must be said that this might just be the strongest launch of a hotel in the 20+ years that I’ve been covering Walt Disney World. The guest experience (from my perspective) on opening day was about as seamless as it could have been. I’ve commented several times that on opening day it felt as though the hotel had already been open for a few years. This is a testament to the resorts General Manager (Thea Sargent) and her team.
Check-in – The check-in experience at Riviera is a little different. Rather than queuing up at the front desk, a cast member will greet you, direct you to a comfortable seating area, and check you in via their tablet. Disney had started doing this at Grand Destino Tower, and I expect we’ll see more of it resort-wide as time goes on. It’s a small thing, but one with a big impact. It felt very personal and welcoming. A great way to start a vacation.
Room – While some have described the rooms at Riviera as ‘sterile’, for the life of me, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I found the rooms to be exquisitely appointed, bright without being obnoxious, with a wonderful blend of blues, creams and dark woods that really evoked a casual elegance. It felt distinctly ‘french’ and I thought it carried the theme of the resort brilliantly.
Topolino’s – Topolino’s restaurant may end up being the sleeper hit of Riviera. Serving an a la carte character breakfast and table service dinner (no characters at dinner), the food here was widely praised by our team. This was especially true of dinner, where many on the team gave it favorable comparisons to Citricos. One thing to keep in mind with dinner: They are going for an authentic Italian experience, which means multiple courses spread out over the course of a few hours. If you’re looking for a quick bite for dinner, this is not the restaurant.
Artwork – Many people have commented on the artwork at Riviera and for good reason. The resort is FULL of unique and interesting Disney artwork, much of which is done in the style of famous French artists. You could spend hours just walking the resort admiring the art. I should point out, I’m the furthest thing from an ‘art enthusiast’ that you’ll find. My version of an art critique is akin to “picture pretty”. It’s the unique take on great Disney icons and themes that captured my attention. There is rarely any artwork in Disney resorts that I would consider hanging in my house. This resort is an exception. The good news – much of it is available at the Art-On-Demand kiosk in the store!
Merchandise – I really liked the merchandise on offer at Riviera. LOTS of great (and unique) logo merchandise available. The quality was particularly good as well (although that’s often reflected in the price). The store itself is on the small side, but it’s jam-packed with great stuff to discover.
Cast Members – Cast Members at Riviera were handpicked and it showed. It honestly seemed as though everyone had been working there for years. In my opinion, the choice of a seasoned, experienced staff paid off huge dividends for this resort and the positive word of mouth the service has been getting.
More for adults – I realize I’m taking my life in my hands by writing this, but it’s important to mention. While this may be a big negative for many, for me it’s a positive. This resort is geared more towards adults than any of the other Disney resorts at WDW. It’s not that it’s “family hostile”, but I felt that the resort caters more towards adults in terms of its theme and its amenities.
Quick Service – According to our team, and virtually everyone we spoke to, the quick-service food at the resort was a disappointment. This stands in stark contrast to the superb food being served at Topolino’s. Not sure what happened here, but Riviera needs to revisit quick service. A number of people (including at least one member of our team) decided to walk over to Caribbean Beach the next day for their quick service rather than eat Primo Piatto again.
Beds falling out of the wall – Anyone who was following on Facebook is aware of the issue that took place in one guest room. The 1 bedroom units at Riviera feature a king bed in the master bedroom, a murphy bed and a trundle bed in the living room. The trundle beds are usually located under the TV and are generally designed for small children to sleep on. That being said, there is nothing to indicate that an adult could not sleep on that trundle bed. Such was the story here – where an older woman slept on the trundle bed – that is until it pulled out of the wall and collapsed on top of her. Fortunately, she was not seriously injured and the next day Riviera notified all guests not to use the trundle bed as repairs were underway. However, it was a bit of an embarrassing story for the resort.
Muddled theme – I’m not sure how to classify this. I think the Riviera Resort is gorgeous, however, I got confused. When I think of the Riviera, I think of the south of France. Yes, portions of Italy are also located along the Riviera, but that’s not what really comes to mind for me (and yes, I’ve sailed the Riviera on more than one occasion). So, it was a bit disconcerting to see the vast majority of the resort as ‘french themed’, while certain select portions were Italian. I realize this sounds petty, but – it’s part of a trend I see getting worse with Disney. There was a time where the theme and story were everything. With resorts, the themes were broad and easy to grasp. Grand Floridian: turn of the century Victorian seaside resort. Polynesian, Contemporary, Fort Wilderness – you get the idea. Quick, easy themes to grasp without many nuances. Riviera requires a bit more from you, “French unless it’s not”. Even the servers in Topolino’s (an Italian restaurant) were confused, greeting guests in French, not Italian.
If it was just this, I probably wouldn’t mention it, but there’s another issue. Remember the concept of ‘line of sight’ theming? If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, it was an important part of the development process within Disney for many years. It means that your experience is fully immersive and that you shouldn’t see things that don’t belong there. It’s why you can see the Contemporary from Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, but not the Grand Floridian. The Contemporary fits in with Tomorrowland’s theme. You should not be able to see anything that disrupts the theme of the area you are in. There has been a slow move away from this over the year, but Riviera Resort firmly kills the concept of ‘line of sight’. Why? Because I can stand on my balcony at a Riviera themed resort and stare directly into Barbados. Riviera is built a stone’s throw from the Caribbean Beach resort. I’m sorry, but even the suspension of disbelief precludes any reasonable person from explaining the logic behind this. The same applies to guests staying at the Caribbean Beach – why are they staring at a gray tower that purports to be from the south of France – or Italy – or maybe Malta, I don’t know. Am I being picky, yes – will it stop me from staying at Riviera again, of course not. It just embodies some of the unfortunate changes Imagineering has chosen to embrace over the last few years.
Overall, I really liked the Riviera Resort – but not enough to overlook the unfortunate and ill-advised resale restrictions. This is, in my opinion, the first WDW DVC resort to stand on its own as a deluxe property, and that’s saying something. Will I stay there again? Absolutely, in fact, I look forward to it. Would I recommend this to people? Yes, however, I would advise families to consider it carefully. As I mentioned earlier, this resort seems more geared toward adults.
12 thoughts on “Best and Worst of Disney’s Riviera Resort”
Great article! As far as sight lines though, the same applies to the Grand Floridian and Polynesian, right?
Funny, when I read that statement in the article, I thought of the exact combination, the Grand and The Polynesian.
Great review! I was surprised you didn’t discuss the problematic tower rooms, but overall, I thought the review was thoughtful and well written. I feel like I have a good sense of what to expect at Riviera before I visit it.
Speaking of the line of sight issue, I think the very problem goes to the very bones of the resort. The moment they decided to build a tower next to CBR, there was no way they were going to avoid it.
What makes Beach and Yacht so great? Location and pool. Why didn’t Disney make an incredible pool here as well? I’d be more interested in staying (or buying) here if they did.
I stayed on opening night in a 1 bedroom and tomorrow we will try the tower studio. We are a family of 4 with a toddler and an infant. The toddler loved the small splash tower since it wasn’t extremely splashy. She also enjoys bocce ball, or petanque, and the daily Lego car races on the lawn. This resort is definitely geared towards adults, so while I really enjoyed the elegance of the patterns and textures, I think we will most likely stay more often at resorts that at least have a community hall for rainy day coloring, etc. I felt that Topolinos was better quality for dinner than for breakfast and that the breakfast prices were a little high for the meals offered, even with characters included. The characters were unique and had adorable outfits, but the star of the meal was the pastry buckets! Toddler and baby loved that too. I agree with your pros and cons, thought I’d throw a perspective out there from a moms pov.
I agree, the pool looks lackluster. But perhaps that’s intentional.
It made me decide to pick Yacht Club or Animal Kingdom for my trip this summer with my 3 middle- and high-school kids rather than the Riviera (even thought I desired the Skyliner) because we definitely want a pool day and the Riviera pool just didn’t look that enticing.
Perhaps that’s part of keeping the more adult-like feel.
Same would be true of Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary…I heard that the rooms are smaller than the other resorts. Is this true?
I think Imagineering gets blamed for many changes (such as line of sight) when the blame really lies higher up the chain. I have a feeling that if Bob Iger or any of the others in high position wanted line of sight to be important, it would be! That was my experience in the military: if the colonel wanted it done a certain way, everyone below the colonel also wanted it that way. Just my opinion.
We had dinner at Topolino’s. We did not think it was good. Fast service just don’t do it here. Walk over to Carribean.
Good notes, staff here are exceptional. Agree, this appears to be a place for adults versus children. They do have a quiet pool, where you will find mostly adults.
Stayed in a 1 bdrm in the West tower over Christmas. Have to say I agree completely with this review with two adds:
Best: Proximity to Hollywood Studios and Epcot / Boardwalk via the SkyLiner – takes minutes and is a fun twist
Worst: No room service!! Ok, you can use mobile order for the quick serve and pay $15 to deliver to the room but c’mon
All in all, really beautiful grounds and hotel! I would highly recommend
Great review Pete. With the shortcomings noted, still looking forward to my stay in July. Hopefully some of the shortcomings (i.e. quick serve) are solved by then.
Took a trip to the Riv as well from HS for dinner at the QS restaurant. While we enjoyed our meal, I was too a little disappointed. The only menu reference that we all have access to is MDE. According to MDE there were supposed to be a grilled hanger steak and a chicken breast with risotto entrée on their menu along with a shrimp pasta entrée. When we got there, the place was very busy for around 8pm and there was only one register open and it was not laid out very well as far as where to line up. When we got to order and looked at the menu screens, the two previously mentioned entrees were nowhere to be found. When I asked where they were, the only answer I got was “due to technical problems, what you see on the screen is what we have”. While I know that the person at the register is only the messenger, you would think that management would have a better way of saying: We dont have that tonight. Plain and simple. Also if you wanted dessert after your finished your meal you could go to the grab and go to purchase the dessert items EXCEPT one item, a cake I think, you have to get back in line for ONLY ONE dessert item. WHY???? And of course the fountain soda cups wouldn’t work at the new freestyle machines. I saw one person after another complaining including me. The food itself was good but they need to get their act together.
Comments are closed.