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 Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment complex (currently undergoing a major redevelopment project to retheme it as Disney Springs).
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 Downtown Disney. 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 Downtown Disney dock areas, so be careful to catch the right service. As from August 2014, the Port Orleans “Sassagoula River Cruise” service departs from a brand new Downtown Disney Marketplace dock, accessed via a new footbridge linking the Rainforest Café area and 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 — currently run from the West Side dock, located just beyond the House of Blues (opposite Cirque du Soleil).
There is also an internal water taxi service which runs between all three Downtown Disney dock locations, the third dock being located behind the Pleasure Island area, accessible from beside the Characters in Flight balloon. This third dock was previously used for some of the DVC Resort services, but they were moved over to the West Side dock due to heavy construction work in the area, and the Pleasure Island dock is currently still temporarily closed (as of June 2015).
- Yellow Flags, departing from the new Downtown Disney 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, currently departing from the West Side dock: Service for Disney’s Saratoga Springs DVC Resort & Spa, including the Treehouse Villas.
- Green Flags, departing from the West Side dock: Service for Disney’s Old Key West DVC Resort.
- Red Flags: Internal Downtown Disney water taxi, circular route running from the Marketplace dock (next to the Rainforest Café) directly over to the West Side dock (opposite Cirque du Soleil) and then back via the Pleasure Island dock (near to the Characters in Flight balloon; this dock is temporarily closed).
The river cruise service linking Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter to Downtown Disney commences from Riverside at 10am daily. The service runs approximately every 20 minutes until 4:30pm, and then every 10 minutes until the final boat leaves from Riverside at 11pm. The last boat back from Downtown Disney departs at 11:30pm, and after then you will need to use the free bus service which operates until approximately 2am.
The Downtown Disney local water taxi (red flags and signs) operates from 10:30am until 1:30am with stops at Downtown Disney Marketplace, Downtown Disney West Side and Pleasure Island (temporarily closed). The service runs every 15 minutes until 4:30pm and then every 10 minutes thereafter.
The journey time between Riverside and French Quarter is about five minutes and the onward trip to Downtown Disney takes another 15-20 minutes. The boats have a limited seating capacity 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.
You can also use the ferry boats to travel between French Quarter and Riverside, but you will need to disembark at Riverside and queue up again for the return journey. If the first boat seems full at Riverside, let the boat captain know you are only intending to travel as far as French Quarter as they always hold back some empty seats to allow passengers to board at French Quarter.
Please remember that the boat service only operates subject to local water and weather conditions, and will cease operating if lightning storms are forecast, or wind or water levels are too high. If that happens while you are at Downtown Disney, use the free shuttle bus service back to your resort instead.