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Photos by Brooke Geiger McDonald.

Disney Vacation Club’s newest Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, projected to open in December 2019, is opening its model rooms to the public — and they’re stunning.

Disney has already opened up the resort for cash reservation bookings by the general public for stays beginning Dec. 16, 2019. Disney Vacation Club (DVC), Disney’s vacation ownership program that operates on a flexible points-based system, begins selling contracts on March 27, and while interest levels have been high since the first construction announcement, resort renderings to date have left diehard Disney fans apprehensive that the resort won’t be “Disney enough.”

I got a sneak peek at the rooms before they were open to the public and am here to tell you that this resort promises to deliver plenty for Disney fans to be excited about. Here’s why. 

Disney’s Riviera Resort: European Charm Meets Disney Magic

Riviera has been billed as a European-inspired resort that promises to surround guests with the elegance and comfort of a “modern European retreat,” but within a setting that also conveys a rich sense of old-world grandeur and layered history. The 15th Disney Vacation Club Property, Riviera’s approximately 300 units will include a range of accommodation types, including a brand new type of DVC unit offering, the Tower Studio, a smaller unit for a maximum of two guests, all the way up to a 3-bedroom grand villa, which sleeps up to 12 guests. Another big selling point? It will be accessible via Disney’s new Skyliner gondola system which will transport guests to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 

So why the concern? Disney resorts are beloved for their immersive theming. Walk through the doors of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and be transported to America’s Northwest; step into Animal Kingdom Lodge and look out across the African savanna; pass through the lobby of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (get lei’d on the way) and see over-water bungalows you’d swear were in Bora Bora (if that telltale castle didn’t feature in the background). So it’s not totally surprising that we Disney fans (always an overeager bunch, I’m the first to admit) would be angling for the next great fully immersive experience. 

While Riviera may not completely transport you to a definitive time and place like the aforementioned resorts — a turn-of-the-century National Park lodge, a hut on the African savanna, the South Pacific — this resort connects guests to Walt and the places in Europe that provided some of his most pivotal inspiration in ways that I think diehard Disney fans will find not just satisfying, but truly moving.

Disney Parks Blog has shared that much of the inspiration for this resort comes from Walt Disney’s well-known love of European travel, as well as his deep admiration for European art, literature, and culture, which of course inspired so many of the most beloved animated Disney films set in Europe. During Walt’s “Grand Tour of Europe in 1935,” Walt had 300 books shipped back home. Imagine what the Disney we know and love might be like had that trip never taken place and had Pinnocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan not been included in that shipment.

You can read a LOT more about this inspiration and the ways it plays into the dining and recreational experiences offered at the resort on the Disney Parks Blog. But I know you’re really here for the sneak peek at the rooms, so here you go!

First Impressions

The exterior of the building is meant to appear centuries old, while the interior should feel fully modern and comfortable, much like the most exclusive hotels in present-day European cities.

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Disney’s Riviera Resort one-bedroom villa model room.

 

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One-bedroom villa dining area.

 

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One-bedroom villa bathroom.

 

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Studio villa

 

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Living area conceals Inova bed in studio villa.

 

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Studio villa queen bed.

Disney in the Details

Guests will be delighted to find favorite Disney characters throughout Riviera’s rooms, primarily via stunning pieces of original artwork created for the resort, and inspired by the beloved Disney films the pieces depict as well as by Walt’s admiration for great European artwork.

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This fold-down bed is slightly smaller than a twin and features a charming black-and-white Mickey and Pluto overlooking the European Riviera.

 

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Charming artwork conceals an Inova bed.

 

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The Inova bed replaces the traditional sofa bed, pulling straight down from the wall to reveal a queen mattress, and a sweet Peter Pan mural, to boot.

 

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Minnie features most prominently in the intricate ironwork of the balconies, which will provide sprawling vistas reminiscent of the waterfront hotels of Europe’s riviera.

 

Aristocats artwork decorates the master in the one-bedroom villa. I’d bet on seeing plenty of Aristocats IP elsewhere in the resort.

 

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If room art like this doesn’t make its way into the gift shops, let’s just say this would be the first time Disney misses a massive merchandising opportunity.

More Thoughts on Theming

While I was touring the construction site by boat, via the water between the back of Riviera and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, I got to thinking about some of the early criticism that these two resorts are too close together, compromising the immersive qualities of one or the other. As I imagined taking in the sprawling vistas from Riviera, looking across the water to Caribbean Beach, I couldn’t help but think that while Disney hasn’t made this connection via the resort’s official storyline, one could almost imagine this water as a mini Atlantic, across which lie the Caribbean islands which are themselves replete with European influences. (I also had the opportunity to visit the recently renovated Caribbean Beach resort and the new table-service restaurant, Sebastian’s Bistro, and let’s just say if the dining offerings at Riviera are anything like Sebastian’s, which was phenomenal, Riviera guests are in for a real treat.)

The new Skyliner gondola system, reminiscent of the gondola systems prevalent throughout Europe’s mountainous resorts, also provides an additional avenue for continued immersive storytelling. Guests can wake up at Riviera, have an espresso and croissant for breakfast or a glass or wine at sundown at Le Petit Café, a quick-service option which will be in the lobby of Riviera, then board the Skyliner for Epcot where they’ll arrive at the park’s International Gateway entrance, which is flanked on either side by the United Kingdom and France pavilions. A European experience from start to finish, indeed!

Like the sound of all this? Cash reservations can be made now for stays beginning Dec. 16, 2019. Disney Vacation Club members who purchase an ownership interest in Disney’s Riviera Resort can begin booking stays beginning Dec. 16, 2019 with their vacation points on April 10, 2019, and members who do not have an ownership interest can begin booking on May 16, 2019.

 

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Editor in Chief of Make It Better, Brooke Geiger McDonald is a Chicago native and Northwestern University grad with a Master’s in English Literature from King’s College London. She’s worked for O, The Oprah Magazine and Shape magazine in New York and for various book publishers in London. Back home in Chicago, she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons, and the four of them are certifiable Disney and Star Wars fanatics, always counting down the days to their next Disney vacation. Her favorite nonprofits to support include organizations focused on environmental conservation and combatting climate change, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram: @brookegmcdonald

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