Disney’s Port Orleans

Corning1There is an unhurried charm to the South, defined by porches, magnolias, gentle breezes, lazy rivers and sunny afternoons. The serenity of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort recreates the South in its finest glory. Stately plantation-style mansions, rustic bayou bungalows and ornate row-house buildings bring to life the southern theme of this 3,056 room resort set on the banks of the Sassagoula River. In keeping with the diverse heritage of the South, there are two separate areas within the resort, each resembling the unique southern flair of life along the Mississippi – from the big city life of New Orleans to the quiet life on the bayou. The two areas, known as The French Quarter and Riverside, are connected by a picturesque waterway designed to capture the mystery and romance of a trip up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Natchez, one of the oldest settlements on the Mississippi.

The French Quarter creates an urban ambience, where wrought-iron balconies, cobblestone streets and vividly colored facades capture the spirit and charm of New Orleans at the turn of the century. From the moment guests arrive at this 1008 room resort, which draws comparisons of the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, the appeal of the Crescent City surrounds them.

The heart of the resort is a building known as The Mint. Designed to replicate a commercial bank of the late 1800’s, the Mint houses the resort’s check in area, a gift shop, arcade, food court and Scat Cat’s Lounge. Here Disney cast members greet arriving guests at check in desks that resemble old-fashioned bank teller windows. Just behind the Mint, a courtyard serves as a focal point of the resort. Quaint streets with names like “Pontchartrain” and “Bourbon” emanate from the courtyard in a similar fashion as is found in the historic Jackson Square Warehouse District of New Orleans. These cobblestone paths, lined with gas lamps, hitching posts and iron benches, weave their way throughout this colorful resort connecting the guest rooms with the Mint and the Doubloon Lagoon pool area.

Disney2The themed pool area is based on the New Orleans Mardi Gras festival, and is often cited as a favorite for kids. It is built around a jazz loving sea serpent, whose body can be seen jutting out of the ground at various locations around the walkways, with the pool’s slide being the serpent’s tongue. Keeping with Disney’s fun loving philosophy, scattered throughout this amazing recreation of the Crescent City, guests will also find dancing alligators playing trombones, saxophones and drums in a jazz trio!

The guest rooms are located in seven three-story buildings that are painted cream, peach, blue, purple and yellow and are designed to look like they contain several row houses. Each room has either two double beds or one king size bed. All rooms include a TV, armoire, small table and chairs, ceiling fans and a bathroom with a separate vanity area. There are three different room views, including the Standard View rooms offering a view of the parking lot, the Garden View rooms with a view of the pathways and courtyard of the property and the Water View rooms offering a choice between a view of the pool or the Sassagoula River.

Further upstream is the Port Orleans Riverside. Riverside is reminiscent of the antebellum South along the old Mississippi River. Designed to represent a riverboat landing, Riverside itself is divided into two distinct sections. The resort begins with Magnolia Bend, a plantation setting with sprawling lawns dotted with impressive fountains and oaks draped with Spanish moss. Further upstream is the Cajun-inspired Alligator Bayou, representing the days of Mark Twain and great paddle wheelers that steamed their way up the Mississippi.

Disney3A walk along the Sassagoula River between Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou offers spectacular views of a transition area where the grand flowering trees of Magnolia Bend give way to the rustic pines of the Bayou. It’s a seamless transition that keeps each area separate, yet blends them into one all at the same time. It’s fascinating to see these two cultures blended together so flawlessly. As guests walk through the resort, they’ll see that the buildings in the resort, starting with Parterre Place in Magnolia Bend, begin very luxuriously and become more rustic and dilapidated looking up river, culminating in the backwoods settings of Alligator Bayou. Legend has it that this is due to the fact that as the early pioneers traveled up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, they started building with the grandest of materials from the city. As they traveled further upstream, their building supplies were running low and they were forced to improvise using whatever materials they could find locally.

Stretching across the river are a series of bridges leading the way to Ol’ Man Island, the resort’s main pool area themed as an old watering hole in the deep south. This 3 and 1/2 acre recreation center is home to a pool with slides and ropes, a wading pool, whirlpool, stocked fishing pond and playground. Across from the island, in the rear of the main building is the marina. Here surrey bikes and water craft of many types can be rented for hourly or daily use. In the evenings, horse drawn carriage rides are available. This area also serves as the loading area for the Sassagoula Steamboat Service. Flat-bottomed riverboats transport guests from Riverside and the French Quarter to Pleasure Island and Downtown Disney. This is a lovely feature that only these two resorts offer.

Port Orleans offers complimentary bus transportation to all of the Disney theme parks. Be forewarned, however, that the transportation system can get extremely busy, particularly when the parks are opening and closing. The boats and buses all stop at the French Quarter first, and if there is any room left, the guests at Riverside are invited along. If not, you wait. And wait. And wait. Boat after boat and bus after bus come loaded with guests from the French Quarter. Be prepared to wait in a very long line or better yet, rent a car.

The impeccable landscaping and impressive grounds might lead one to believe that this is a very expensive resort. This is not so at all. While Port Orleans has much more charm and many more leisure options than the Disney value resorts, the room rates are on par with other hotels in the area. More importantly, the convenience of being located on the Disney property cannot be beat. When put in this perspective, why stay anywhere else.

One word of caution: for as wonderful as this resort is, the management is not quite on par. Generally Disney is a leader in customer service, however, this is not always the case at Port Orleans. During our stay, we encountered a couple of problems that were not dealt with to our satisfaction. When we tried repeatedly to contact general manager Bill Thompson, we were brushed off and told to report our complaint to Disney’s Guest Communications. The Port Orleans management clearly did not want to deal with any complaints. After weeks of sending letters to Disney’s Guest Communications with my concerns, I was finally contacted by a Disney representative with a well rehearsed apology. I would still recommend this resort for its wealth of qualities outside of management.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort

Location: 2201 Orleans Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

Phone: (407) 939-6244

Website: Port Orleans

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