An Ode to (Port) Orleans

Well, not technically an ode since I’m bad with poetry, but I liked the way that title sounded. In any case, in honor of Port Orleans’ 25th Anniversary, we wanted to share this post today. We’ve stayed at Port Orleans several times in the past couple of years, and in the process, have developed a much greater appreciation for it.

Since we’ve repeatedly praised Port Orleans Riverside on the blog, naming it the #1 or #2 Moderate Resort in our rankings over the years, it’s hard to imagine developing a ‘much greater appreciation’ for Port Orleans. However, that’s exactly what has happened. That, plus my personal ‘a ha’ moment with French Quarter has led to us staying at Port Orleans more, and we think it might be worthwhile to cover the why of that here.

This is a post we’ve been putting it off since we have vlog material to accompany it from our stays at both resorts this summer and fall, but since we’re short on time and this post has already been delayed longer than I’d like, here it is. We’ll add the vlog footage later, if/when we eventually get it edited…

Before we get to the ‘why’ of our frequent stays at Port Orleans the last two years, since it is Port Orleans Riverside’s/Dixie Landings’ 25th Anniversary, I think a brief (personal) retrospective is in order. I still remember my first stay at Dixie Landings.

My family had gone from driving down and staying at Fort Wilderness in our camper on our annual trips to staying at Shades of Green every year once that opened/was converted. However, during our 1996 spring vacation, Shades of Green had overbooked, so we were moved to Dixie Landings. This was our first stay at a “real” Disney resort hotel, and it was a memorable experience for me.

My most vivid memories of Dixie Landings that trip were the unmistakable Southern feel to the resort, going from the bayou to plantations, and even staying in a real mansion! For whatever reason, I also recall our meals at Riverside Mill Food Court, where I ordered the delicious Cajun fries every night. I also recall the resort having some rooms that were located in huge trees, which it most certainly did not.

Fast forward another decade, and Sarah and I stayed at Port Orleans Riverside during our engagement trip. The hotel would forever have a soft spot in our hearts after that, and I still remember the boat ride to Downtown Disney (Springs), as well as wandering the grounds late at night and early in the morning.

Port Orleans Riverside oozed a romantic feeling, but of course being freshly engaged didn’t hurt with that, either…

We’ve since stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter or Riverside more times than I can count (maybe 8-10 stays?). For a while, I felt that French Quarter was overrated; only a good option for families with small children or those with mobility issues due to its compact size. That assessment was wrong–I missed the point.

My preference is for a larger resort experience, something that I initially felt was missing from Port Orleans French Quarter. I also lamented its comparatively sparse amenities, particularly a lack of table service dining. Then I did what should have been the obvious thing, and took a stroll over to Port Orleans Riverside while we were staying at French Quarter…

This changed my perspective. I now view Port Orleans French Quarter’s compact size–when coupled with its proximity to the sprawling Riverside–as an asset.

If you want a resort with an easy walk to breakfast or the centralized bus stop, you have it. You’re always within a 5 minute walk of whatever amenity you want to enjoy. Contrast this with Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs, where you could be 10-15 minutes away by foot.

If you want a resort that allows you to wander, explore, and escape the hustle and bustle of the main amenities, you also have that at French Quarter by virtue of wandering the short distance over to Port Orleans Riverside.

My personal preference remains a sprawling resort with a feel of seclusion rather than intimacy, making Port Orleans Riverside an ideal pick for me, but I’ve found French Quarter represents an excellent “compromise” resort. It’s really the best of both worlds.

In terms of both theme and atmosphere, Port Orleans (collectively) also brings a lot to the table–more than any other resort hotel at Walt Disney World. Port Orleans French Quarter has an intimate and cozy feel, as if you’re walking the streets of an idealized version of New Orleans.

As you walk to Riverside, you transition to the rural areas on the outskirts of town, where there is more space between. The larger size also allows Riverside to convey multiple themes, from the rustic and densely wooded bayou to stately manors on perfectly-manicured grounds. When viewed collectively, an argument could be made that these two resorts are the thematic and atmosphere pinnacle of Walt Disney World’s hotels.

In fact, it’s an argument that we find quite compelling. We would go as far to say that if your primary concerns are, in this order: 1) cost, 2) theme, 3) atmosphere, 4) room quality, then one of the Port Orleans resorts is your best choice.

If you prioritize room quality over theme, atmosphere, etc., but still want a Moderate, our pick is Caribbean Beach. Port Orleans’ rooms are by no means bad; just not as good as Caribbean Beach or Coronado Springs. (Speaking of which, I’ve also updated our Port Orleans Riverside Review with new room photos.)

On long weekend visits or trips when we intend upon spending less time in our hotel room, Port Orleans has become our go-to pick. (Hence so many stays here over the last couple of years.) I love Riverside for the isolation and seclusion it offers, while French Quarter is gaining momentum for its compact layout. I enjoy being able to get up early or stay out late wandering in a satisfying environment, and Sarah likes the value and convenience the Port Orleans hotels (particularly French Quarter) offer.

Value Resorts remain the most economical pick for commando tourists who are spending every waking hour at Walt Disney World in the parks, but for people taking fast-paced trips with a larger budget, we favor Port Orleans. We feel the cost of the upgraded accommodations, amenities, and theme is well worth the money (at least to us), and represents a “sweet spot” between the Value and Deluxe tier. I’m pretty sure we’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Port Orleans is like a Deluxe-caliber resort in terms of theme on a Moderate budget. Now that you know how we feel about Port Orleans, what do you think? Are you one of its avid fans, or do you not see the appeal?


39 Responses to “An Ode to (Port) Orleans”
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