As we've talked about a time or two, all of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels offer a little something for everyone. They're all perfectly family friendly and lots of fun, plus they all offer the same terrific benefits. Still we have our favorites, which you can easily see on our handy-dandy Disney World Hotel decision matrix to help you easily see the top amenities for each hotel.
If you're looking at the Disney World moderate hotels, you may have noticed that we have three Frog Family Favorites and may be wondering how to decide which one is right for you. After all, we frogs love them all.
The Disney moderate hotels offer a good blend of amenities and affordability that makes sense for many families. And these hotels have as many or more rooms per hotel than the value resorts (minus Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter), so they often have more availability. Today we're taking a closer look at each of the moderates, so you can make the very best decision for your family. We'll be looking at a few key areas: overall theming, dining & amenities, the pool, transportation & distance to the parks, and the rooms.
It's important to note that Disney's Caribbean Beach is undergoing a significant refurbishment starting in May 2017, and its quick-service food court, pool bar and table-service restaurant will be closed. A Caribbean-style breakfast buffet, lunch and a la carte dinner is being made available along with grab-and-go items. Guests staying during this time will receive a $75 Disney Gift Card per room for each night of their stay upon check-in.
Overall Disney Moderate Hotel Theming
The theming is quite different for each of the Disney moderates, although there is some overlap with Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs.
- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort - Beach
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort - Mexico, Spain and the Southwest
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter - New Orleans
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside - Old South (plantations and bayous)
The theming at Disney's Coronado Springs is easily the most confusing. The resort rooms are divided into three sections—Casitas, Ranchos and Cabanas—each with its own flavor of external architecture. All of the room interiors are exactly alike.
Winner: Disney's Port Orleans - Riverside, although it's largely up to you and your own personal preferences. When it comes to children, it's hard to go wrong with the beach theme, which makes Caribbean Beach a popular choice. But the picturesque waterways, working water mill, magnolias and poplars make Port Orleans a resort unlike any other.
If there is one resort where the theming falls just a bit short, it's Port Orleans - French Quarter. While it definitely evokes the feel of New Orleans—right down to the cobblestone streets—that theming in largely going to be lost on children.
Disney Moderate Hotel Dining & Amenities
When it comes to amenities, the Disney moderates all offer a step up from the value resorts. All of the Disney moderate hotels have a playground, an arcade, a jogging trail, a gift shop, one feature pool with a slide, a quick-service restaurant and a table-service restaurant. Port Orleans French Quarter is the one exception and does not offer a table service restaurant. It's a short walk to the table-service restaurant at Port Orleans Riverside (Boatwright's Dining Hall). French Quarter is also a short boat ride away to Disney Springs, where there are tons of great table-service options.
Disney's Port Orleans offers horse-drawn carriage rides, bike rentals and catch-and-release fishing. Disney's Caribbean Beach offers a pirates adventure cruise, bike rentals, sand volleyball and catch-and-release fishing. Disney's Coronado Springs offers bike rentals and sand volleyball.
Winner: Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. Because Coronado Springs also has a convention center, it offers additional amenities that the other moderates do not. They include two table-service restaurants; additional bars; a salon, spa and fitness center; and suites.
Disney Moderate Hotel Pool
The moderates all have more elaborate themed pools (minus perhaps Port Orleans French Quarter) that include water slides and hot tubs (the values do not). Because of the importance of the pool—it's often a primary reason why we choose one hotel over another—we're breaking this out into its own category outside of amenities.
Each of the moderates offers a feature pool and at least one hot tub. The larger resorts also have non-themed "quiet" pools closer to the rooms (Port Orleans French Quarter is the exception). The pool at Port Orleans Riverside—set on Ol' Man Island—has the feel of a swimmin' hole and includes a sawmill slide. Disney's Caribbean Beach offers a pirate's paradise in Fuentes del Morro, with its colonial Spanish fortress theming, two slides and pirate ship water play area. The Dig Site at Disney's Coronado Springs is home to the Lost City of Cibola pool—with its 50-foot pyramid—giant hot tub, sand volleyball court and sand play area. Port Orleans French Quarter is perhaps the least themed, but includes a 51-foot-long sea serpent slide, hot tub and water play area.
Winner: Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, although it's largely up to you and your own personal preferences. When it comes to children, it's hard to go wrong with the pirate/beach theme. While Coronado Springs also has elaborate theming, the pool is much larger and isn't zero entry, which makes it a little harder for moms and dads who have younger tadpoles.
Disney Moderate Hotel Size, Transportation & Distance to the Parks
With the exception of French Quarter, which is the smallest resort on property, the Disney moderate hotels are among the largest on property in terms of sheer acreage and number of rooms. This is an important consideration and makes room location a bigger deal. After a long day in the parks, do you potentially want to have to walk another 10 minutes to get to the main pool or dining? In most cases, you will pay a premium for the rooms closest to the lobby, dining and feature pools.
Like the values, the moderates all offer bus transportation to the theme parks. They are about the same distance to Magic Kingdom. Disney's Caribbean Beach is closest to Epcot, and Disney's Coronado Springs is closest to Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios. All of them, except for French Quarter, have multiple bus stops around the resort going to and from the parks. French Quarter does at times share bus service with Riverside. For this reason, we'd recommend families staying at any of the Disney moderate hotels consider renting a car or using a car sharing service, especially during the busiest times of year.
Additionally, Disney's Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter offer boat transportation to Disney Springs, which is a nice option for families who want to do more shopping and dining.
Winner: Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter. French Quarter has a loyal group of fans who wouldn't dream of staying anywhere else, and its size is a big reason. With its cobblestone "streets" and smaller footprint, it has a more intimate feel. It's also more popular with adults who don't have children because of its theming (or less kid-friendly theming) We're also giving it the nod because it's closest to Disney Springs.
Disney Moderate Hotel Rooms
All of the Disney moderates offer queen beds in their standard rooms, which is a recent change. Disney's Caribbean Beach, which was the last of the moderates to have full beds, recently had its rooms refurbished. The results have made a big difference, and these are now the most updated and modern of all the moderates. The tropical theming is carried inside the rooms, which feature dark, carved headboards, and warm-colored tropical bedding. Disney's Coronado Springs has a more Aztec theming with blues and browns as the dominant colors. Disney's Port Orleans features both southern plantation-style theming and bayou-theming inside its rooms. Disney's Port Orleans Riverside is perhaps the least themed inside its rooms with purple and gold patterns as a nod to New Orleans.
Many of the rooms at Disney's Caribbean Beach and Disney's Port Orleans Riverside will sleep up to five adults, which makes them a better choice for larger families. It's important to note that there are no elevators at Caribbean Beach, which offers two stories. At Port Orleans Riverside, elevators are only offered for the three-story Magnolia Bend section of rooms.
Additionally, Disney's Caribbean Beach and Disney's Port Orleans Riverside offer more elaborately themed rooms—pirate rooms and royal rooms respectively. The intricately carved pirate ship beds will only accommodate doubles, so these rooms sleep up to four adults. The royal rooms, featuring Tiana and the other princess, are fit for your princess and offer light-up headboards and intricate, dark royal colors.
Winner: Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. With the recent rooms refresh, the ability to sleep five (in many rooms) and double sinks, Caribbean Beach gets our nod for the best rooms.
So Which Disney Moderate Hotel Is the Best?
Drum roll, please ... It's very close, but because of the recent room refresh and its awesome pool, Disney's Caribbean Beach is our overall favorite. Tad loves the authenticity of the Spanish fortress pool and Lily loves splashing about on the pirate ship splash pad.