Ranking the Best (and Worst) Moderate Resorts of Walt Disney World!

At Walt Disney World there are three tiers of resorts: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. We’ve written a lot about the Value and Deluxe resorts, but today we are taking a look at the Disney World Moderate Resorts to find out which is the best.

Coronado Springs

To establish this definitive (and likely to be highly controversial) ranking, we will be looking at a few factors: location, theming, food, and amenities. We will also be looking at the hard-to-quantify Disney magic factor at each resort.

Let’s get into it.

Port Orleans

For starters, here is the list of Moderate Resorts at Disney World.

  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

We will be ranking the Resorts from worst to best. But we want to point out: this doesn’t mean that any of these Resorts are bad, just that some ranked better than others based on our criteria. 

We love them all for different reasons, but some are superior to others in certain areas. So you do you — and leave us a comment or a review if you disagree. 

5. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Coronado Springs is a vast resort comprised of guest buildings of varying sizes and the massive Gran Destino Tower. Coronado Springs caters to the convention set, which contributes to its pros and cons.

In terms of location, Coronado Springs has one major drawback for folks who want to park ’til they drop: it isn’t close to any particular park. That means your Disney bus rides will likely be long. 

Coronado Springs Map (Map ©Disney)

Another potential drawback of this resort is its theming, because honestly there isn’t much at Coronado Springs. It mimics Spanish, Mexican, and Southwest American designs for the most part, but the look comes off as bland rather than vibrant. And Gran Destino Tower — which is packed with style — doesn’t really match the rest of the resort.

Despite our personal feelings that the overall design lacks Disney magic, we understand that Coronado Springs might work perfectly for folks who want to vacation at Disney World but not be smacked over the head with over-the-top theming at their resort. In this case, we’d say Coronado Springs works perfectly.

Gran Destino Tower

Because of its pedigree as a convention resort, Coronado Springs does offer Club Level access and has some great amenities. There are the standard playground, arcade, outdoor movies, and pools, but the offerings don’t stop there. This is the only Moderate Resort where you’ll find a fitness center — and they’ve got two! There are also painting classes, jogging trails, and campfire activities.

Coronado Springs Pool

Due to the size of the resort and the number of conventions held at the neighboring center, there are lots of good dining options. The stand-out restaurant, Toledo — Tapas, Steak, & Seafood — is a stylish rooftop spot that provides expansive views over Walt Disney World. But Barcelona Lounge in Gran Destino Tower is absolutely breathtaking and worth a stop for fans of Dali-inspired design.

Tapas from Toledo

So Coronado Springs has landed on the bottom of our list for its not-so-great location and bland (by Disney standards) decor. But there are definitely some pros to this resort as well.

4. The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Ah, the great outdoors! The Cabins at the Fort Wilderness Resort are a unique camping family vacation option while still being at Disney World. There is a wonderful juxtaposition being at a ‘rustic’ resort connected to a perfectly-curated theme park.

©Disney

So as location goes, the Cabins are very convenient to Magic Kingdom but very inconvenient to the other three parks. There are boats to take you directly to Magic Kingdom, which is a relaxing and fun way to start and end your day. But you need to take the shuttle buses or drive yourself to get to the other parks. Add to this the fact that Fort Wilderness is spread across 700+ acres and requires long walks or use of the internal bus system to get around, and you’ve got a resort that’s actually not big on convenience.

Ferry Boat to Magic Kingdom

The Cabins themselves are really that: 409 fully-furnished cabins complete with kitchens set into the woods. The Fort Wilderness Resort does a fantastic job of going all in with the theme. All of the buildings look like log cabins and are surrounded by trees.

Campsites at Fort Wilderness ©Disney

The standard Disney resort amenities can be found here, great pools with waterslides, arcades, outdoor movies, and fishing. There are some unique opportunities here, too, like boat rentals, bike rentals, hiking trails, wagon rides, pony rides, a campfire sing-a-long, and an archery experience. If your family likes the outdoors and sporting activities, this one’s for you.

Campsites at Fort Wilderness ©Disney

For food there are snack stands and a buffet, but there’s no food court. There is one dinner experience that stands above the rest, however, and that brings guests from all over. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a country western themed dinner show where you can enjoy a fun musical show while eating an all-you-can-eat country dinner.

Waving Napkins at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

For the chance to stay amidst nature and yet still be theme park-proximal, we love the Cabins. But the trade off is that it’s far from Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom; and the resort itself is so spread out as to be inconvenient for many guests.

3. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

First let’s look at the location. Caribbean Beach Resort isn’t particularly close to any of the parks, but with the addition of the Skyliner this past year it is a little easier to get between the Caribbean Beach Resort and two of the parks. The Skyliner is a system of gondolas that connect some of the Disney World resorts to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. So even though the distance to the theme parks might not be ideal, if you’re willing to ride Skyliner, you can overcome this drawback.

Caribbean Beach Skyliner Station

The entire Caribbean Beach Resort is themed, obviously, like the Caribbean. The collection of buildings have an aesthetic feel in both color and structure similar to what you would see in places like Barbados, Jamaica, and Aruba.  The pool is modeled after an old Spanish fort and has an 82-foot waterslide that goes from inside the fort and through a wall into the pool. 

Fuentes del Morro Pool

Beyond the Caribbean vibes and the Spanish fort, there is also some pirate theming here. There are a few pirate themed rooms at the Caribbean Beach Resort where you can sleep is pirate ship shaped beds. It sounds great, but these are some of the farthest rooms from the Resort’s common areas. At the end of a long day in the parks this walk  (or using the internal bus system) can feel like an eternity.  

Caribbean Beach Pirate Room

That’s because this Resort is massive and spread out. To do a full loop around the Resort (including a little section that passes by Riviera Resort), you’re talking well over a mile. If you use the internal bus system, you’ll have to deal with six stops. This is a huge drawback that makes navigating the Resort problematic for some guests.

Caribbean Beach

One solid aspect of the Caribbean Beach Resort is the food. There is the classic food court option in the Centertown Market, and the poolside Banana Cabana is a fun option. Then there is the gem that is Sebastian’s Bistro. With delicious food with both Caribbean and Latin flavors it is definitely worth trying. 

Banana Cabana

Overall, despite some strong pros, the biggest con — the enormous size of the Resort — and the need to update those pirate rooms makes it less desirable than some of the other Moderates on our list.

1 & 2. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French QuarterDisney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

We’re combining our number one and two resorts because they’re really two distinct parts of a whole: Port Orleans — French Quarter and — Riverside. They share the spirit of New Orleans but express it differently.

Port Orleans

French Quarter is based on the legendary New Orleans district called the French Quarter. With buildings boasting iconic wrought iron balconies and lots of cobblestone streets, you’ll feel like you’re in the Big Easy. The pool even has a Mardi Gras theme and a sea serpent and the classic Fantasia gators dressed up like they are a part of the second line.

French Quarter Lobby

Riverside is inspired by the bayou and features a water wheel that powers a working cotton press. This provides a more rural New Orleans feel and reminds us that the Mississippi River runs to New Orleans. Riverside also has Disney royalty-themed rooms that make you feel like the jewel of the Mississippi.

Riverside Details

The amenities at the resorts are pretty much the same — and you get to share them! They both have pools (Riverside’s is Ol’ Man Island), painting activities, horse drawn carriages, fishing, arcades, and playgrounds. Because you can share amenities, guests at these resorts therefor have access to two awesome themed pools and plenty of fun activities for the whole family.

 

French Quarter Pool

The food at both resorts focus on southern comfort food with a clear New Orleans feel. You can get Jambalaya, shrimp and grits, and beignets that will make you want to eat until you explode. In this one area the French Quarter comes out ahead a little. The food there is more like authentic New Orleans cuisine.

Mickey Beignets at French Quarter

The final piece the puzzle of what makes Port Orleans the best (pair of) Moderate Resort is the Sassagoula River Cruise. This short, calming boat ride connects both resorts to Disney Springs via a regularly-running water taxi. Though it may seem like a small detail, having access to the Springs (and all of its dining and shopping) is an important component of vacation for a lot of guests.

Sassagoula River Cruise to Disney Springs

For its immersive theming, delightful food, and shared access to amenities, we say the Port Orleans Resort is tops!

Which Moderate resort is your family’s favorite? What order would you put the Moderates in? Let us know in the comments.

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20 Replies to “Ranking the Best (and Worst) Moderate Resorts of Walt Disney World!”

  1. I completely disagree! I love the Coronado and think it’s by far the best moderate resort. The food is great and it wasn’t a bad walk around the resort itself. I would rank Caribbean Beach closer to last. That resort is impossible to walk around it’s so huge and spread out. The Coronado might be spread out but all the buildings are in a circle around the water and it’s an easy walk to all of the food and restaurants. It’s gorgeous there at night to walk around the water and the food is amazing and the bars are even better. My 10 year old loved it more than any of the other moderates and asks to go back there all the time. I do really like the French Quarter too but it really lacked in options for us it’s quaint and quiet but not much to do or eat and Port Orleans was way overrated and too spread out. The Cabins should have been dead last in my opinion. The busing system was a nightmare, it lacked in dining options, and the pool is horrendous and lacking any theme at all. When we stayed we literally found a frog in our toilet every day and the last day there was a snake in there. I get that its a cabin in the woods but come on! We will never stay there again. My whole family hated it. The Coronado just has more of a deluxe resort feel to it which we really like for the lower price tag. Plus the pool there is so cool and I love that each building cluster has its own quiet pool too.

  2. We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter 3 years ago. We loved it and definitely would stay there again! Then this past March we went back and because Port Orleans wasn’t open yet we stayed at The Caribbean Beach. It was ok but didn’t love it. Wouldn’t stay again. We ended our trip with 2 nights at the Grand Floridian. 🤗

  3. French quarter is the best! Small size so all rooms are near food court and the 1 bus stop. New Orleans food is amazing. Rarely does it share a bus with riverside. Beautiful grounds and fun pool. Boat to Disney springs is a bonus.
    Great value for the money

  4. I’ve always felt that Riverside in particular is highly overrated. I would put it at the bottom. CBR is also not great, but it’s close to Riviera and has the skyliner. Coronado Springs has much more comfortable and quality rooms, also some really great dining options. Honestly, I can only assume your rankings are based on some sort of nostalgia factor.

  5. It sure would be nice if Disney EVER reopened the #1/2 resorts again….Seriously, what’s the hold up Disney?!? The demand is there, the mask restrictions have been (mostly) lifted, and it looks like you’ve been hiring sooooo….?

  6. I know WDW has not announced a reopening date for the Port Orleans resorts, but do you have a guess as to when they might reopen?

  7. I absolutely agree with Port Orleans at the top but CSR at the bottom? Come on. The tower is enough to make it higher. You’re getting way closer to a deluxe feel for a lower price. I understand CBR has the skyliner but their rooms are absolutely gross compared to other resorts at this point.

  8. I like Port Orleans Riverside the best. The breakfast is convenient and the Cajun restaurant is good. You have boat access to
    Disney Springs.

  9. CBR and POR at the bottom, FW cabins in middle, POFQ 2nd, CSR 1st. so yeah a big difference in my ratings

  10. I seriously miss those beignets. I’ve never stayed at Port Orleans but frequently would take a bus over mid-afternoon for a taste of N’awlins.

  11. Caribbean Beach Resort is my least favorite of all resorts…ever. It’s too large and we had the WORST experience at Shutters Restaurant (no longer there). Port Orleans Riverside was very nice. Also quite large, but surprisingly quiet. The food choices were good. Absolute favorite is Port Orleans French Quarter. We loved the theming of the resort. The food options were great! Beignets! We are staying at Coronado Springs in 25 days. We’ve heard great things about this resort recently. We have always avoided it, because of the Convention Center. After watching Molly’s video review, I have high hopes. I’ve always wanted to stay at the Cabins. We love camping and I feel like this would the best of both worlds. Camping at Disney…fun!

  12. I think it is important to note that six can stay in a cabin at Fort Wilderness. It is the only moderate where our family of six can fit into one room.

  13. Umm – I would have put Coronado Springs at no 1 – the room quality blows the others away and that plus the Club Level, gyms, spa, outstanding dining at both Toledo and Three Bridges as well as the ‘quiet’ ambiance that isn’t thrusting theming down your throat gives it a real edge

    1. Port Orleans our overall favorite. Wish it had been open when we were there late December. Love the size, theming, and overall comfort we feel there.