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Opened Dec. 16., Disney’s Riviera Resort is Walt Disney World’s newest hotel and the 15th Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property. It’s also the first dedicated DVC resort at Disney World since 2004. Riviera Resort was designed to pay tribute to Walt and Lillian Disney’s European travels — and from the moment clients step into the lobby, they will feel like they’re on the Mediterranean coast.
“Upon arriving, you are welcomed by cast members with a friendly ‘bonjour,’ setting the scene for what awaits inside,” said ToniAnne Mizzi Hall, co-founder of Pixie Dust Vacation Planners in New Jersey, who visited the resort on opening day. “Both the interior and exterior grounds transport you to the elegance of a classic European resort, and the restaurants, pools and recreation activities are unique to the theming, including regatta and Grand Prix races, bocce ball, painting on the French Riviera and an art scavenger hunt.”
I also stayed at the 300-villa resort for its grand opening, and as I explored the elegant lobby, the corridors filled with Disney-inspired artwork, the beautiful gardens and the pool areas with bright-blue umbrellas, I really did feel like I was in the French Riviera. And that’s because Walt Disney Imagineers had a hand in every detail.
“At Disney World, there's always a little bit of fun and magic just around the corner,” said Yolanda Cade, director of public relations for Disney Signature Experiences. “What's special about this resort is that it is inspired by Europe, but it is imagined by Disney."
As with all DVC properties, Riviera Resort offers a range of guestroom options, including Tower Studios, a new room category unique to the hotel that accommodates two guests (or two adults and one baby). In addition, Deluxe Studios can accommodate up to five guests, and the resort's villas are available in one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations. The three-bedroom Grand Villa is large enough to sleep up to 12.
According to DVC guide Marcel Maritz, Riviera Resort is the company’s only property where both the Studio Villa and the one-bedroom villa can sleep five, so a two-bedroom lock-off can accommodate up to 10 guests total. Another plus for families is that all villas have fully equipped kitchens and washers and dryers.
During my stay, I enjoyed dining at Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera, the resort’s signature table-service rooftop restaurant, which gets its name from the Italian word for “Mickey Mouse.” The menu features French-Italian fusion and, as my waiter explained, ingredients such as olive oil, cheeses and olives are imported from France and Italy, while the pasta and baked goods are made daily in-house.
“The inspiration for Topolino’s Terrace goes back to Walt and Lillian,” said Dean Huspen, principal architect for Walt Disney Imagineering. “We saw the experiences they had with rooftop dining, so we wanted to bring that to our guests and give them a never-before-seen view of the resort.”
Those vistas — both from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows and its rooftop terrace — are spectacular; in the evening, diners are treated to “front-row seats” for the Hollywood Studios and Epcot fireworks shows. Topolino’s Terrace also hosts Breakfast a la Art, a new character dining experience with Disney pals, who are dressed in costumes inspired by the creative arts of the French Riviera. For example, Mickey is dressed as a painter, Minnie as a poet, Donald as a sculptor and Daisy as a dancer.
Families will also find Disney characters at S’il Vous Play, an interactive water feature next to the Riviera pool. A nod to European public fountains with bronze and stone animals, this fun kids’ water play area incorporates whimsical statues of the ostrich and hippo ballerinas from Disney’s 1940 animated film “Fantasia.” There’s even a mischievous elephant filling a bucket to splash the kids below.
If elegant decor, delicious food, fun Disney touches and signature Disney service isn’t enough to put Riviera Resort at the top of clients’ must-stay lists, its location should solidify that spot. The hotel is just steps away from the new Disney Skyliner, which will whisk them to Hollywood Studios or Epcot in style.
From the resort, I hopped on the Skyliner and was at Epcot within minutes — enjoying bird’s-eye views along the way. Plus, two mosaic murals in the Skyliner station's archways pay tribute to magical flight — one featuring characters from “Peter Pan,” and the other depicting the floating lanterns from “Tangled.” (Fun fact: Together, the murals feature 1 million tiles.)
“‘Charming,’ ‘exquisite’ and ‘spectacular’ are just a few words to describe Riviera Resort,” Hall said. “Our clients will love the atmosphere, access to the Skyliner and all the amenities the resort has to offer.”
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