Disney’s Moderate Resorts – Part Two

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By Linda Norton

In our last newsletter, Linda Norton presented the pros and cons of the Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs resorts. Today, she concludes this two-part series with a hard look at the Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside. Enjoy!

Port Orleans French Quarter opened in May 1991 as Port Orleans Resort and had a lengthy renovation from 2001-March 2003. POFQ is the smallest of Disney’s Moderate resorts with 1,008 rooms in seven buildings. When you arrive to POFQ, you’ll hear jazz music in the background as you walk up to the Port Orleans Square, the check-in area. This area originally was designed to resemble a bank of the 1800’s complete with wrought iron bank teller windows and used to be known as The Mint. As you leave the check in area to go outside to the resort rooms you exit through a courtyard with a gift shop (Jackson Square Gifts and Delights) on one side and a food court (Sassagoula Float Works) on the other. The public areas of this resort are decorated with Mardi Gras icons. The walkways are actually cobblestone streets are lined with lamp posts, wrought iron, magnolia and oak trees. Expect to see fountains and cascading flowering plants, such as bougainvillea and roses, throughout the resort. Be sure to look at the street signs; I suspect the Disney Imagineers had fun designing this resort.

Port Orleans French Quarter lobby.

At a mere 1008 rooms in seven buildings, it’s a pretty quick walk to just about anywhere at this resort. The water view rooms are the furthest out and have a lovely view of the Sassagoula River. Its small size and beautiful landscaping make it a bit on the romantic side. There are plenty of places for a quiet stroll, and benches throughout the resort are inviting.

There is no table service restaurant in POFQ (Bonfamille’s closed in August 2000 leaving only Boatwrights Dining Hall in Riverside to serve the two resorts). The Sassagoula Float Works Factory food court seats 300 and offers typical Disney food-court food, pizza, and their specialty–fresh beignets made to order. When they come out of the fryer they’re dumped into lots of powdered sugar—a mess to eat but certainly worth the extra napkins. On my last trip to POFQ, I wondered why my husband got up early every morning to get my coffee—then I saw the resort bill at the end of the trip. Apparently he had developed quite the beignet habit, but didn’t bring them back to the room to share. (Now he’s into baklava, but that’s the subject of another article).

Poolside at Port Orleans French Quarter
The pool at POFQ is called Doubloon Lagoon and features a sea serpent slide. While this slide doesn’t have the thrill of the spitting Jaguar of Coronado Springs’ Dig Site Pool, it still is a pretty good ride if you’re among the younger set. Mardi Grog’s Pool Bar offers adult beverages, and the laundry is right nearby.

Just up the river a bit from the French Quarter is Port Orleans Riverside, which is themed as a riverboat landing on the Sassagoula. This resort opened in 1992 as Dixie Landings Resort. While the French Quarter is small and compact and a short walk to the busses and food court from anywhere, Riverside is large and covers a lot of territory. The two resorts share a carriage path/walkway as well as bus and boat service.

The Sassagoula Steamboat Company is the check-in area and as a testament to the Disney attention to detail you will notice various Mississippi River ports are listed way up on the walls towards the ceiling. After checking in, you can head towards Fulton’s General Store, the River Roost Lounge, Boatwrights Dining Hall (the cornbread is great!), and the Riverside Mill Food Court. This is a huge building designed to handle large amounts of people; you’re not even close to the guest rooms yet.

A view of the Alligator Bayou section.

Magnolia Bend section.
A beautifully landscaped property, Riverside’s buildings are themed into two parts: Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou. Magnolia Bend has four three-story buildings: Acadian House, Magnolia Terrace, Oak Manor, and Parterre Place are closest to the French Quarter. Think of elegant old south antebellum plantation mansions with curving staircases; rose bushes trailing over wrought iron archways over sidewalks, and even a gazebo that overlooks the water. The Alligator Bayou section of Riverside has many tin roofed plantation houses nestled among the swamp oaks. There are no elevators in the Alligator Bayou section. The AB area is also where groups of five may be accommodated at Disney in one room, as there is a small trundle bed with the two doubles. The trundle bed is not a regular twin though – it’s quite short and it’s stored under the elevated standard beds. Persons over 4’6” might be pretty uncomfortable on this trundle, and five people in one room at a Moderate would be a tight squeeze.

There are four bus stops at POR: one in front of the store, and three around the back. When I stayed at Riverside a while back I was in Alligator Bayou building #35 with a quiet pool directly outside our door, and it was a pretty short trip to the busses as we were midway between the West and North Depots. What I remember most about Riverside though is that I actually GOT LOST while walking to my room from the front of the resort! There are lots of sidewalks at POR, and while they are color-coded for the most part, if you miss a sign you may be walking in circles. All of those oak trees and buildings looked alike and I had difficulties finding the building numbers. Oh well, Hakuna Matata…at least it was a pretty walk.

The pool area at POR is called “Ole’ Man Island” and as part of this area you will find Muddy Rivers pool bar and the Fishin’ Hole, where you can pay to do some catch and release fishing with a cane pole, ala Huck Finn. The pool area has a really great playground for the little kids. Along with the main themed pool, POR has five quiet pools. Like all quiet pools, there are no lifeguards present nor are there any towels. Bring your own towels from your room.
The pool at Port Orleans Riverside.

As mentioned earlier, busses are shared between POFQ and POR. Expect less than 15 minutes to a park after the bus makes its last stop and gets going. The Sassagoula Steamship Company runs the boat service to DTD via the river landings at each resort. It’s a slow trip down the river to DTD but it is quite pretty. You pass the old Disney Institute Treehouse Villas (now used for cast member housing) and the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Old Key West resort is also nestled in the trees, but you’ll have a great view of Disney’s newest vacation club resort, Saratoga Springs. A bit of trivia for you: the water on the Sassagoula River is brown because of the tannins in the oak trees that line the banks of the river.

So there you have it. Each of the Disney Moderates has its plusses and minuses. But with their combination of theming and amenities, the Moderate resorts offer something for everyone. Pick your own favorite and enjoy everything the resort has to offer.

To read the first article in this series, click here

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