Generally, when the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) sells new ownership interests, they’ve added villas at popular Disney properties. Only one standalone DVC resort has been opened in the 21st century…until now. In December, the 15th DVC property will open, and it’s a huge deal for members. Here’s everything that we know about Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Disney’s Riviera Resort celebrates one of the most famous vacations of Walt Disney’s life. He took his older brother, Roy, on a trip across Europe. It was a life-changing visit for both of them, as they gained many ideas about incorporating international cultures into Disney films. This hotel incorporates some of the same concepts into its theme.
The decidedly European design begins with the name, a beloved part of the Mediterranean. When you stay here, you’ll feel awash in European style from the facings of the buildings to the cuisine at the restaurants. The hotel’s communal spaces and rooms are modern in design and style, but they’ll honor traditional aesthetics as well. I’ll let Disney sell the concept for you:
“Disney’s Riviera Resort is designed to capture the magic of Europe that Walt Disney fell in love with once upon a time.
Upon arrival, you’ll be welcomed home by a palm tree-lined boulevard and the striking façade of this Resort hotel. From the grand archways and porticos to the tower and terraces, Disney’s Riviera Resort will be a modern masterpiece of imagination, with each detail drawing upon the influences of Europe and the Mediterranean.
In the main lobby, you’ll find yourself in an elegant setting appointed with a mix of modern and classic 20th-Century furnishings. You’ll also discover a unique art collection celebrating beloved Disney Characters and icons, influenced by master artists who found inspiration along the European Riviera.
The ambiance will extend outdoors—where beautiful gardens, bubbling fountains, lush landscaping and a serene waterfront will beckon you to enjoy scenic strolls with your loved ones.”
Disney’s goal at Walt Disney World has always been to combine many of the most popular vacation destinations in one space. Previous resorts honor days spent at the boardwalk and the beach, trips to the South Pacific, and a throwback era of Ernest Hemingway’s Key West. Now, Imagineers have checked 20th century Europe off the list with this modernization of Walt Disney’s unforgettable trip abroad. When you stay here, you’re paying tribute to the founder of The Walt Disney Company.
One of the recent changes over the past few years is that new DVC properties start at extremely high prices. It’s one of the reasons why DVC resales are so popular today. To wit, the starting price for the Riviera is $188 per point.
Based on recent history, we know that this price will increase as the DVC availability dries up. It’s a reasonable expectation for the Riviera to cost more than $200 per point within 12-18 points. As an example, the Copper Creek expansion at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge started at $176 per point in March of 2018. It had already increased to $188 per point by January of 2019.
The other aspect of Riviera to consider is the recent rules change in DVC membership. For some reason, Disney won’t allow members who buy a resales contract at Riviera to exchange it for points at other DVC properties. This rule may seem harmful to resales buyers, but the reality is that it hurts everyone.
Even guests who buy direct contracts at the Riviera have less valuable contracts. Should something cause them to attempt to sell their membership interest, they’ll find limitations in the customer pool. Savvy buyers won’t be as likely to purchase at Riviera due to this rule.
I’m not telling anyone to avoid purchasing at the Riviera. The resort has many advantages and some great amenities that we’ll discuss in the final section. There’s a caveat emptor aspect to it, though. Please do your own research before buying a Riviera ownership interest directly from Disney.
You’ll have your choice of five different room types when you stay at the Riviera. You’ll also have two different views available as options. Those are Standard and Preferred. Since the hotel isn’t completed yet, we may only speculate about these views.
What we do know is that the Riviera will include views of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For this reason, we may conclude that Standard View rooms likely have obstructed line of sight or overlook the parking lot. Preferred rooms almost certainly feature some view of one of the two theme parks.
The room type that has received the most attention thus far is the new one. The Tower Studio is the tiniest DVC room ever built. It plays into the philosophy that some travelers, even DVC members, spend so little time in their rooms that they just need a bed. Since the Tower Studio is only 255 square feet, that’s about all that the guest receives. Even the bed is a pullout Queen rather than a true bed. These rooms sleep only two, and so they’re primarily for couples or singles.
The standard studio is quite spacious at 423 square feet. It sleeps five thanks to the Queen bed, a pullout Queen bed, and a pullout single bed. The one-bedroom suite is almost double the size of the studio at 813 square feet. It sleeps five guests as well.
The two-bedroom villa at the Riviera is a comfortable 1,246 square feet. Disney’s documentation indicates that it can sleep nine, which is higher than most DVC properties. While some resorts like Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa also sleep nine, most have a maximum occupancy of eight.
Finally, the grand villa is a three-bedroom with a ton of room. It is 2,530 square feet, enough to sleep 12 comfortably according to Disney. I spent several minutes admiring the floor plan of this suite, as it has a fantastic living room sitting area and a family-friendly 10-seat dining room table, too. It looks like a terrific choice to host gatherings or for multiple families to share a suite.
The Points Chart
The final piece of the puzzle at the Riviera is the points chart. When DVC members saw the Tower Studio for the first time, they instantly began to speculate about nightly points cost of this unprecedented room type. Many of them were a bit disappointed, although I feel they were a bit unrealistic about the topic.
A Tower Studio starts at 11 points per night for a weekday during Adventure Season. A week’s stay here during Adventure, Choice, or Dream Season ranges between 81 and 109 points. Those rates increase for Magic Season (132 points) and especially Premier Season (162 points).
For comparison, a week at Disney’s Beach Club Villas falls between 107 and 120 points during those three seasons and then 134/181 for Magic/Premier Season. If you expected the Tower Studio to be a great way to maximize your points, you’re disappointed right now. Yes, it’s slightly cheaper, but I wouldn’t call it a great value by any stretch.
Since standard studios are so large, the points chart for them seems better to me. A week’s stay in a Standard View studio during Adventure Season is 109 points. A Preferred View is 134 points. Excluding Premier Season, you’ll never spend more than 160 points for a Standard View or 190 points for a Preferred View room. As always, the rates spike for Premier Season at 204/243.
A week in a one-bedroom suite here is tolerably priced. Rates start at 227/284 and go up to 321/491 during Magic Season. Premier Season is pretty brutal at 421/495. This brings me to the point that you’ve surely recognized by now. The difference in points between Standard View and Preferred View is hefty.
You may want to save your points early on until sites like DVCNews.com have populated their database with images of the room views. In my experience, some of the Standard Views are often superior to the Preferred Views at various resorts. Since the Riviera has at least some form of theme park view, it may not work the same way.
The other comment that I’ll make is that a two-bedroom Standard View at Riviera ranges between 296 and 508 points from Adventure through Magic Season. When you look at the comparisons, you can get a two-bedroom suite without a view for less than a one-bedroom suite with a view. Booking that larger suite strikes me as tremendous points value.
As for the Grand Villa, DVC members who have enough points to book these rooms aren’t that worried about nightly cost. A week’s stay in the Grand Villa is 764 points during Adventure Season, 796 points in Choice Season, and 880 points during Dream Season. After that, the points cost spikes to 1,030 in Magic Season and a bungalow/cabin-esque 1,260 points during Premier Season.
Overall, the Riviera seems priced in the middle-to-high range of Walt Disney World DVC resorts. Those of you who had hoped that it would be a Moderate Tier resort with that sort of pricing are unfortunately out of luck.
Let’s be clear. The primary amenity at the Riviera is the Disney Skyliner. This gondola system will transport guests to two different parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. I should mention that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will have opened prior to the debut of this hotel. As such, from the first night here, it’ll have the most convenient logistics to reach Star Wars Land.
The beauty of the Skyliner is that it’s not subject to pedestrian or vehicular traffic. It’s akin to a ski lift gondola, the kind that carries you up the side of a mountain. You’ll border the Skyliner near the hotel lobby, and then you’ll soar into the sky on a direct path to your destination.
This new system is poised to be the most efficient Disney transportation system since the monorail opened in tandem with Walt Disney World in 1971. Don’t be surprised if Disney expands the Skyliner system to include other DVC resorts, either. It’s a smart, modern method of reducing the company’s reliance on buses and boats.
Of course, the Riviera is more than just a route on a gondola system. It’s a breathtaking high-rise facility that will feature a rooftop restaurant called Topolino’s Terrace. This Signature Dining experience will match and possibly even surpass California Grill as the most elegant place to watch Disney’s nighttime presentations.
From the roof of the hotel, guests can see the fireworks shows at Epcot and Hollywood Studios. While details are still scarce, park officials have stated that it’s a prix fixe character meal, too. Topolino’s Terrace is the next great Disney restaurant, and you’ll want to eat here whether you stay at the resort or not.
The other confirmed drinking and dining options here will fill all of your needs as a traveler. Le Petit Café is a decidedly French coffee shop in the lobby that will also serve wine and quick bites. Bar Riva is intended as a European afternoon hangout joint, a place where the drinks highlight the conversation. The Quick Service eatery is Primo Piatto, the latest trattoria at Walt Disney World. Obviously, the cuisine here will skew Italian. Finally, Disney just revealed details about the Voyageur’s Lounge, which celebrates Walt Disney’s life-changing European vacation. You can read (and watch) more about it here.
The impending arrival of Disney’s Riviera Resort is a huge deal to DVC owners and potential new buyers. I hope that you’ll use the information listed here to make an informed decision about whether you should purchase or stay here. At a minimum, everyone should commit to dining at Topolino’s Terrace at first opportunity. Best of all, you can ride the Disney Skyliner to and from the hotel!