Category Rank: 3
Park: "Rest of the World"
Park Rank: 8
We are ready for another boat ride at #36; the Sassagoula River Cruise takes us from the Port Orleans Riverside resort to Downtown Disney and back. Actually, the Yellow Flag route is the one that goes to POR, as there are other "cruises" that go to Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and the other end of Downtown Disney respectively. We have never ridden on any of them, so this ranking is solely for the Yellow Flag route.
Much like the Riverside Mill, this item is a bit hard to distinguish from the Port Orleans Riverside resort in terms of the overall atmosphere. The Sassagoula River runs up through the Port Orleans Riverside compound and is an integral part of the scenery, providing the Old Man Island and the bridge, as well as the mill wheel a place to turn. From POR, it flows down through Port Orleans French Quarter (POFQ, just because that is a really cool acronym), then down to a branch east and west to Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, or continuing southeast down to Downtown Disney's waterfront lake.
The River Cruise boat departs about every 20 minutes, or every 10 minutes after 4:30. The journey is a nice relaxing (yes, there is that word again) journey along a calm river, overlooking the beautiful architecture of the Port Orleans resorts (featuring plantation style manors from New Orleans and the lower Mississippi) as well as well as by the Tree House Villas (one of the more unique resort options in the World). It also meanders past plenty of beautiful southern-plantation style forests, before porting in Downtown Disney's marketplace area fairly close to the Rainforest Cafe.
The boat itself is much bigger than the one on the Seven Seas Lagoon we visited earlier, as you can easily seat 25-30 people. While the Seven Seas Lagoon boat itself is more quaint, the scenery on the Sassagoula River makes this the overall better ride.
There are, of course, many other boat trips throughout WDW. There are the main ferries from the Transportation and Ticket Center over to Magic Kingdom. There are some larger boats that go from Magic Kingdom over to Wilderness Lodge. There are boats that go from Epcot to nearby resorts like the Boardwalk. And, I'm pretty sure there are many others that I don't know about. There are also other, more personalized rides like the bicycles-built-for-five at POR or the horse-drawn carriages. Or, maybe the most famous of those personalized rides, the balloon at Downtown Disney. And, you can't forget the regular buses that go everywhere in the World. With so much transportation choices, you might have a couple questions at this point: Why aren't there more items on this list, and why does the Sassagoula River Cruise rank so high?
When it comes to transportation, there is a law of diminishing returns. There is room for only so many modes to be special in one's eye. Many of the rides are at a disadvantage for this list because we typically don't splurge and go on them (though we did make an exception and ride the bicycle-for-five once). When it comes to boats, many of the World's watercraft lose out because the Sassagoula and the Seven Seas boats were taken by us on our first trip to WDW, and therefore have a special place in our heart. And, the buses lose out to the top two transportation items on our list, which no one will question.
As we mentioned with the Riverside Mill, the feeling of the bayou-area southern plantation-style environment helps provide that sense of calm and peace, as though you would be right at home there with a Mint Julep (until you actually try a Mint Julep and see that it is like drinking Listerine). This historical period-based theme is an important one for Disney, and each of these items benefits from being part of the POR resort.
We come to #35 and #34, two entries that I had some misgivings about placing on this list. I went back and forth with whether they (and the #2 item on our list, for that matter) would qualify as "thrill" attractions. Ultimately, I decided that they were not, and therefore qualify as nostalgic attractions. Our item at #35 returns us to Animal Kingdom for what is always our first activity we do at the park, and the one attraction that best symbolizes the park.