Sassagoula River Cruise

Riverboat Logo

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:

Picking up passengers at the Riverside Marina

Picking up passengers at the Riverside Marina

  1. Memphis Miss
  2. Louisiana Lady
  3. Sassagoula Sunset
  4. Bayou Princess
  5. Crescent City Queen (spelled “Cresent City Queen” on the boat’s name plate)
  6. Magnolia Blossom
  7. Florida Queen
  8. Buena Vista Queen
  9. Saratoga Queen
  10. Blossom Queen
  11. Jazz Lady
  12. Delta Lady
  13. Azalea Bloom
  14. Southern Breeze
  15. Jazz Queen

The boats run multiple 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.

The new ferry dock at Disney Springs (opened August 2014)

The new ferry dock at Disney Springs (opened August 2014)

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.

Operating Hours and Routes

The river cruise service linking Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter to Disney Springs commences at 10am daily and continues until 11pm, with the last boat back from Disney Springs departing at around 11:30pm. The boats run approximately every 20 minutes during the day, and more frequently during the late afternoon/evening.

Whenever the boats are not running, you can use the free shuttle bus service which operates from around 8am until 2am. This picks up at both resorts and at The Landing bus station in the centre of Disney Springs (behind Planet Hollywood).

From August 2015 two independent ferry routes were operated after 5pm, and that has now been extended to provide separate boat services for most of the day. Guests travelling to or from Port Orleans French Quarter should use ferries which sport a purple identifying flag, while Port Orleans Riverside guests should use boats with yellow flags. After 8:30pm, the boats will generally call at both resorts, which is signified by a dual yellow/purple flag.

The new separate service is still somewhat experimental (one boat captain commented wryly “it’s what Disney is doing until they decide to do something else”) so you may find that if space allows, or if some passengers wish to disembark, the yellow-flagged Riverside ferries may make occasional unscheduled stops at French Quarter en route. The purple-flagged boats are likely to be pretty-much exclusively for French Quarter guests though as they don’t pass through the Riverside area. The boat captains are in contact with each other by radio too, so they have the ability to be a little more flexible when demand at both resorts fluctuates during the day.

Sassgoula River Ferryboat passes Port Orleans French Quarter

Sassgoula River Ferryboat passes Port Orleans French Quarter

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 direct boats from Riverside take about 20 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. Round-trips are not permitted and you must disembark and join the line again to return on another boat.

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 boat services only operate 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 bus service back to your resort instead.

Seating Capacity

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 — three for the smaller boats, four for the larger versions.

As from the end of August 2016, boat captains have been 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.”

Wheelchair and ECV guests can be accommodated on the boats without needing to transfer from their seat, and the boat captain will attach a ramp to help you embark and disembark safely before other guests are allowed to board.

When travelling between between Riverside and French Quarter, the boat captains may hold back some empty seats at Riverside to allow for passengers waiting to board at French Quarter. If you are only intending to travel between Riverside and French Quarter please let the captain know as that might allow him to accept a few extra passengers.