Sassagoula River Cruise
One of the unique features of the Port Orleans resorts is that they were constructed on the banks of the Disney-created Sassagoula River, a gentle 2½ mile waterway which winds its way through lush woods, past the Treehouse Villas and the Saratoga Springs DVC Resort, to Lake Buena Vista and the Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment complex, which is the new name for the Downtown Disney area.
The fictional Sassagoula Steamboat haulage company which plies the waters around the Mississippi delta also operates a range of very real water craft in Florida. The “Sassagoula River Cruise” is a free service which ferries guests from both of the Port Orleans resorts all the way down the river to Disney Springs. The twenty minute boat trip is a very pleasant and relaxing alternative to road transport and shouldn’t be missed.
The fleet consists of some 15 boats spread out over four routes, all decked out in a lively brightly-coloured yellow and blue livery, with suitably fitting Southern names:
- Memphis Miss
- Louisiana Lady
- Sassagoula Sunset
- Bayou Princess
- Crescent City Queen (spelled “Cresent City Queen” on the boat’s name plate)
- Magnolia Blossom
- Florida Queen
- Buena Vista Queen
- Saratoga Queen
- Blossom Queen
- Jazz Lady
- Delta Lady
- Azalea Bloom
- Southern Breeze
- Jazz Queen
The boats run four separate ferry routes from various Disney Springs dock areas, so be careful to catch the right service. As from August 2014, the Port Orleans “Sassagoula River Cruise” service departs from its updated Marketplace dock, accessed via a new footbridge behind the Rainforest Café which connects with the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
Ferries for the Disney Vacation Club Resorts — one for Saratoga Springs and the Treehouse Villas, and a separate service for Old Key West — now run from the newly re-opened dock at The Landing, located next to the Characters in Flight balloon.
There is also an internal water taxi service which runs between all three Disney Springs docks, the third dock being located over in the West Side area near to Cirque du Soleil.
- Yellow Flags, departing from the new Disney Springs Marketplace dock (right-hand queue line): Sassagoula River Cruise service for Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.
- Blue Flags, departing from the central dock at The Landing: Service for Disney’s Saratoga Springs DVC Resort & Spa, including the Treehouse Villas.
- Green Flags, also departing from the dock at The Landing: Service for Disney’s Old Key West DVC Resort.
- Red Flags: Internal Disney Springs water taxi, circular route running from the Marketplace dock (next to the Rainforest Café) over to the West Side dock (opposite Cirque du Soleil) and then back via the Landing dock (near to the Characters in Flight balloon).
The river cruise service linking Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter to Disney Springs commences from Riverside at 10am daily. This service then runs approximately every 20 minutes with boats stopping at both resorts until around 4:30pm.
Following a short but successful trial, as from 2 August 2015 two independent ferry routes will be operated after 5pm, one running from Riverside directly to Disney Springs roughly every 15 minutes, and the other from French Quarter directly to Disney Springs every 20 minutes or so.
You can also use the ferry boats to travel between French Quarter and Riverside before 5pm, however you will need to disembark at Riverside and queue up again for the return journey. If a boat seems full when you are waiting to board at Riverside, let the boat captain know if you are only intending to travel as far as French Quarter as they always hold back some empty seats to allow passengers to embark at French Quarter. After 5pm, please use the complimentary bus service instead.
The last boat back from Disney Springs departs at 11:30pm, and after then you will need to use the free bus service which operates until approximately 2am.
The journey time between Riverside and French Quarter is about five minutes and the onward trip from French Quarter to Disney Springs takes another 15 minutes. The boats have a limited seating capacity (see below) and are very popular, especially later in the afternoon, so please allow plenty of time for your journey just in case you don’t manage to get onto the first boat that comes along. Wheelchair guests can be accommodated and the boat pilot will attach a ramp to help you embark and disembark safely.
The Disney Springs local water taxi shuttle service (red flags and signs) operates from 10:30am until 1:30am with stops at the Marketplace, the West Side and The Landing. The service runs every 15 minutes until 4:30pm and then every 10 minutes thereafter.
Please remember that the boat service only operates subject to local water and weather conditions, and will immediately cease operating if lightning storms are forecast in the area, or wind or water levels are too high. If that happens while you are at Disney Springs, use the free shuttle bus service back to your resort instead.
The manufacturer’s specifications for operating capacity state a maximum 32 people for the shorter versions of the ferry boats, and 37 people for the longer versions. You can tell the difference by the number of pairs of yellow pillars supporting the overhead canopy &md three for the smaller boats, four for the larger versions.
As from the end of August 2016, boat captains are now permitted to allow some guests to stand during transit if they wish, with the safety spiel adjusted to state “please remain seated, or hold on to the handrails if standing.”
When travelling between between Riverside and French Quarter before 5pm, the boat captains will hold back some empty seats to allow for passengers who may be waiting to board at French Quarter. If you are only intending to travel between Riverside and French Quarter please let the boat captain know as that might allow him to accept a few extra passengers.