Today was Day 2 of the Walt Disney World 2011 Resort Showcase, during which Disney is shining a spotlight on their newest and upcoming resort hotels, as well as new features of older resorts, here in Orlando, California and Hawaii.
I was most excited today for the tour of Port Orleans scheduled for after lunch — we were promised a sneak peek at the recently announced “Royal Guest Rooms.” These new accommodations continue in the trend of theming rooms to a particular story — similar to the pirate-themed rooms Disney World introduced at Caribbean Beach Resort in 2009.
Our tour actually began in the reception area of Port Orleans French Quarter, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
After touring the main area, we were led over to the pool, and learned about the resort’s recreation activities.
We were finally shown a few of the resort’s just-renovated rooms.
One of the biggest changes is that the rooms now feature two queen beds, instead of full beds. Flat panel television sets have been added, and the quality of all the furnishings, like bedspreads and draperies, seems to have been upgraded — they even have accent pillows on the beds as an added touch.
In the bathroom area, the pedestal sinks have been replaced with a single, double-bowled vanity, which provides more counter space. All the fixtures, tubs, shower heads, etc., have been replaced as well.
We were also shown a renovated accessible room. This is one type of the ADA-compliant rooms — French Quarter has 25 like the one we saw, which feature grip bars in the bathroom area, and special emergency lights to alert hearing impaired guests of an incident.
French Quarter also has an additional 50 accessible rooms that have wheel-in showers, with hand-held sprays.
The renovation of all of the rooms at French Quarter was completed last month. Renovations will begin on French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside, in June. To learn more about that project, we quickly rode over to Riverside.
When that renovation begins, work will start on the new Royal Guest Rooms — there will be 512 rooms in the Magnolia Bend area of the resort converted to this new theme. (The remaining rooms in Magnolia Bend will retain their theme, and will be refurbished as well, as will the rooms in the Alligator Bayou section of the resort.)
Imagineer Eric Jacobson greeted us at the model room in Riverside, but admonished us that no photos were allowed — there may still be some fine-tuning to the concept before the rooms are finalized.
But we were allowed to see the room ourselves and ask as many questions as we wanted.
As they are now, the rooms are based on the following story: Princess Tiana (from the film, Princess and the Frog) has invited her other princess friends for a vacation, and each of the invitees has brought a gift that has a place somewhere in the room. As soon as you enter the room, you’ll find a letter from Tiana embedded in the table. Scattered around the room are the gifts — gold faucets in the bathroom that came from the film Aladdin, a hassock that resembles the dog footstool from the Beauty and the Beast. The bedspreads and draperies are in royal blues and golds and some of the the furniture is gold-trimmed. One of the most impressive aspects of the room are the beds’ magical headboards, which light up and feature special effects. You have to see them to appreciate them.
Unfortunately, though, you won’t be staying in these rooms until April or May 2012. (Editor’s note: Other Disney reps have quoted me a timeframe of January 2012. Keep your eyes open for a definite date, hopefully soon!) You will however, probably be able to start booking the rooms by late September or October of this year. Pricing for the rooms is expected to be somewhat higher than a standard Port Orleans room, but actual rates have yet to be determined.
I have more to tell about the Health and Wellness suites at the Contemporary, and the latest news from Aulani in Hawaii, but that will have to wait — it’s late now and tomorrow is another big day, including my first time doing the new Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom!