There are four launch routes serving Downtown Disney, Port Orleans, Treehouse Villas, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West. Currently Downtown Disney has docks located by Cirque du Soleil and Paradise Island with one launch running between those two docks. There are three routes running out of the Cirque du Soleil dock to the resorts. Yellow flagged launches go to French Quarter and Riverside resorts in Port Orleans. Blue flagged launches head to Saratoga Springs resort and the Treehouse Villas. Green flagged launches go to Old Key West resort.
Launches have portable ramps like the ones on the monorail for boarding wheelchairs and scooters. There is room for scooters on these launches but one must be skilled in backing up or one can end up in the river. If in doubt then have family put the scooter in free wheel and push the scooter off the launch. I back in as it is easier to get out of the launch going forward. The resorts do not have railings on the docks so you have to watch your kids and watch out for guests who might run into you. I had no problem with loading and unloading my scooter but one guest took a very long time to back out of the launch after getting stuck several times. Note that ferries do not operate during high winds, lightening, or other weather that makes it unsafe to operate. The last launch leaves around 11 pm for the resorts.
The ferries are free and open to everyone. They offer visitors a chance to explore the resorts and Downtown Disney without having to constantly move the car or be on a cramped bus. There are glimpses of the resorts though moss draped trees that at times seems to be right out of the South. Many skippers will take time to speak with guests. Saratoga Springs has the awesome Turf Club for one of the best dinners you can find in WDW. They have Chips and Slices quick service, Artist Palette quick service, and a lounge with a full bar and a pool table. Old Key West has paths to explore, a DVC store, Gurgling Suitcase bar, Goods To Go quick service restaurant that is very allergy friendly, and Olivia’s sit down restaurant. Food, drinks, and decor is themed after Key West. The only thing to do at Treehouse Villas is enjoy nature as you walk through the resort. There are paths to Downtown Disney, nature paths, and jogging paths intertwined with the golf course. There is a “cast members only” bridge and a “golfers only ” bridge so make sure you know your route while exploring the area. I suggest the Mousesteps site for a photo tour of her walks through some of these areas and check online for jogging sites that go into detail on jogging paths.
Port Orleans has 2 pool bars, 2 bars, 2 food courts, and Boatwright’s Dining Hall for a wide variety of food and drinks that feature New Orleans and Southern items. The partially built ship in Boatwright’s is a replica of an 1820’s flatboat while Fulton’s General Store is named for Robert Fulton who built the first commercial steamboat. Riverside is steamship, bayou, and antebellum mansion themed while the French Quarter is themed after Mardi Greas and the French Quarter of New Orleans. There are carriage rides, bicycles, and surry bikes to rent. I love exploring the area for its architecture and decor and especially down by the river for a peaceful stroll.
The launches are not just transportation but a way to get to adventures, dining, and shopping. I like to park at Downtown Disney then take a ferry for exploring the resorts, dining at the resorts, and enjoying the entertainment at the resorts. I love dining at the Turf Club and popping into River Roost for a snack while watching Yeehaw Bob perform. I now am in love with all the DVC resorts and hope to stay there one day. For kids it is a free adventure that most enjoy.
My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW. I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.