The Good Times Roll at the Port Orleans French Quarter
by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the November 18, 2008 Issue #478 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
I have to admit that I'm spoiled a bit when it comes to staying at Walt Disney World resorts. I'm fortunate enough to normally be able to stay in the Epcot resort area, within walking distance of that park's International Gateway entrance in one direction, Disney's Hollywood Studios in the other, with the BoardWalk entertainment district in between.
But every once in a while, the budget begs for a break and I need to stay at a more moderately priced resort. And when that happens, I always choose, if it's available, Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter.
It's the smallest of the moderate resorts, but that's only a disadvantage when it comes to availability. Because it has just 1008 rooms, it fills up fast, much faster than its sister resort Port Orleans Riverside, which has nearly twice the capacity. But otherwise its smaller, more manageable size means that it's more intimate, easier to navigate, and generally has a more personal feel.
That feeling starts in the reception area, where you are greeted by some of Walt Disney World's most cheerful cast members – at least that's been my experience, from the front desk to Mousekeeping (I've had more towel animals at this resort than at any other I've stayed at, if that's any indication). It's also where you first encounter the resort's happy, purple, gold and green Mardi Gras theme. Harlequin-style jesters, images of the Greek god Bacchus, all symbols of the famous annual New Orleans party, abound throughout the lobby, and follow you all the way to your room, which, even if you're as far away as you could possibly be from the front desk, is still within walking distance.
"As far away as you could possibly be," at this resort is building number 7. If you want to be close to registration, the dining areas, and the resort's single bus stop, request building 4 when you book your room. It's close enough to everything, even the pool area, but far enough away that you don't hear a lot of noise from other guests. Even if you should end up in Building 6, though, don't panic — it's at most a five-minute walk from the main facilities.
As I mentioned, Port Orleans French Quarter has seven three-story buildings, accessible by both stairs and elevator. Rooms are about 314 sq. ft. — not the largest moderate resort rooms available (the Caribbean Beach has those at about 340 sq. ft.), but still big enough to house a family of four. The rooms have all the furnishings and amenities you'll need — two double beds dressed in bedspreads that continue the Mardi Gras theme with masked revelers and beads and musical instruments. There's a television on a dresser, a desk with two chairs, a small refrigerator, a coffee maker, a small settee and clothes hooks. In the bathroom area, which can be partitioned with a privacy curtain, there are two sinks, a hair dryer, iron and ironing board, a space to hang clothes, a wall safe, and of course the toilet and a tub/shower in a separate room. In other words, everything you could need for a comfortable stay while you're at Walt Disney World.
But for a small resort, the French Quarter offers so much more. As you wander down the tree-lined cobblestone walkways, you'll no doubt smile when you notice the whimsical street names that have been assigned: Cake Walk, Esc.ca Crepe, and the ever-popular Rue D'Baga. The resort's peaceful grounds, perfectly manicured courtyards and ornate spouting fountains, have a peacefulness that you might not notice at other resorts. Unless, of course, you're walking past the pool area.
The French Quarter has a lively, wonderfully themed pool, the Doubloon Lagoon, replete with jazz-playing alligators, and King Triton presiding over the imposing dragon slide (you slide right down its tongue!). It's a bit smaller than the feature pools at other resorts, which is no surprise given the French Quarter's size, but no less fun for the kids, and apparently the adults, too. Nearby the hot tub (spa) is set apart by hedge walls — you gain entrance to the rather secluded area under ivy-covered arches. Also nearby is the playground area for the kids — in the four days of my most recent stay, though I passed at all times of day, it was never unoccupied, so it must be a fun spot to hang out.
Unfortunately, the French Quarter's table service restaurant, Bonfamille's, closed several years ago, so your resort dining options are limited. You can, of course, make the 10-15 minute walk over to the Riverside section to try Boatwrights if you need a sit-down meal. But if you're feeling like staying put, you can order in from the Sassagoula Pizza Delivery service — there's no paper menu in the room, but you can see what they're offering on the resort's television channel. There's also the French Quarter's food court, Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory — it's a fancy mouthful to say, but don't let that discourage you. It offers much of the same fare most resort food courts do: pancakes and waffles at breakfast, burgers, pizza, sandwiches for lunch and dinner, and hot meals (pot roast, ribs, chicken) at dinner time — even has a selection of kosher foods on hand upon request. There is, however, one notable distinction at this eatery, elevating it far above common food courts. The beignets. Oh, the beignets! If you've not been to New Orleans before, you may never have heard of these delightful, powdered-sugar covered fluffs of fried dough, but once you've tasted one you don't soon forget them. This is the only place on Disney property where you can get them fresh — three for $2.99 — and really, they are only good when they are fresh and hot and eaten on the spot. They just about hover over the plate, they are so light, and pay no attention to the powdered sugar all over your face. There will most likely be several other people sitting around you wearing the same white smudges, along with satisfied smiles. Definitely worth the trip… and the calories!
While I may complain about the inability to walk to a theme park from the French Quarter, it (along with the Riverside resort next door) does offer one special transportation feature — a ferry direct to Downtown Disney. I'd heard about this method of transport before, but never had the chance to try it until my most recent visit. What a delightful ride it is along the Sassagoula — takes about 20 minutes, along a tranquil waterway lined with waterfowl. The views of Downtown Disney and the Saratoga Springs resort as you approach (or depart) are fabulous, and the change of pace from often loud and cramped buses is most welcome.
Another thing that sets the French Quarter apart is its lounge, Scat Cat's Club. I know many people are fans of the River Roost at the neighboring Riverside section of Port Orleans, due in large part to the presence of long-time entertainer Bob Jackson. But River Roost can be loud and crowded — Scat Cat's is more my idea of what I think of when I hear the word "lounge." I can lounge there quietly, sipping a beverage of my choice — there is frequently live entertainment, but I have yet to be here when the crowds have been overwhelming or the noise level has been obnoxious.
Yes, there really are quite a number of things that make the French Quarter my favorite choice when looking at Walt Disney World's moderate resorts. Despite its compact size and distance from the theme parks, I realize that I don't really miss the Epcot resort area that much when I stay at the French Quarter. With its charming personality, little extras like the beignets (mmm…) and the ferry ride to Downtown Disney, plus the few extra bucks in my pocket book when the credit card bill comes, the good times really do roll here — or as they say in New Orleans, "les bon temps roulez." I feel truly spoiled there, and not deprived at all.
Port Orleans French Quarter Fact Sheet: http://allears.net/acc/faq_po.htm
Port Orleans French Quarter Photo Gallery: http://allears.net/acc/g_po.htm
Port Orleans French Quarter Rate and Review: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=20&cat=3
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Debra Martin Koma, Senior Editor of this newsletter, fell in love with Walt Disney World on her first visit there — when she was 34! She's returned to her Laughing Place more than four dozen times in the years since, and shares her passion with readers of AllEars.Net and AllEars®. Deb is also co-author (along with AllEars.Net founder Deb Wills) of PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, a travel guide designed for all travelers to Walt Disney World who may require special attention, from special diets to mobility issues.
Other features by Debra Martin Koma: http://allears.net/btp/dkoma.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.