French Quarterby Sue Holland, contributing writer
Port Orleans French Quarter is the smallest of the moderate resorts at Walt Disney World, with approximately 1,000 guestrooms. This makes it about half the size of each of the other three resorts in this class. During 2003 and early 2004 all of the guestrooms were completely refurbished, and today the resort looks better than it ever has.
Many years ago, shortly after Disney entered the moderate resort market, I made my first stay at what was then called Port Orleans. It did not impress me, unlike its sister resort Dixie Landings. I made one more attempt several years later, and booked Port Orleans for a weekend trip. Unfortunately I hated it again. Many more years passed, Port Orleans and Dixie Landings were combined and changed their names to Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside, respectively.
Over the years, French Quarter closed a couple of times, undergoing renovations to all of the rooms and exteriors. The food court was shut down and revamped, opening as a much-improved eatery. Finally, one day this past year I rode the boat from the Marketplace in Downtown Disney to Port Orleans Riverside. While docked to unload passengers at French Quarter, I took another look and this time liked what I saw, deciding it was time to give this resort a third try.
They say three strikes and you're out, but for Port Orleans French Quarter, the third time was definitely not a strike. With the many little improvements made since my previous stay, and perhaps thanks to a little mellowing on my part, French Quarter is now a resort I would be happy to book for future trips. The compact size was a plus, the rooms are lovely and comfortable, and the location is excellent. It's also a very romantic setting, although admittedly romance can be found at any resort!
Mardi Gras props adorn the food court. Photo by Sue Holland.
The theme here is New Orleans, with much of the décor centering on its annual Mardi Gras celebration. There is liberal use of the festival's purple, green and gold in the color scheme throughout the resort, with many festive touches. In the Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory food court for example, oversized Mardi Gras masks and other props hang from the ceiling. The bedspreads contain similar images, and the walkway approaching the swimming pool is decorated with whimsical statues.
A view of a newly refurbished guestroom. Photo by Sue Holland.
Each room contains two double beds, but because they are higher off the ground and have much nicer skirting and bedspreads than normal, they look much more elegant than the double beds found in the value resorts. They are also incredibly comfortable, and the pillows hold their shape well. The televisions have been replaced with a 27-inch model, which is an upgrade from the previous 19-inch sets.
There is a small table with two sitting chairs, a very large dresser area with lots of drawer space, and a cushioned bench. The rooms used to be somewhat dark, but I found this room to be well-lighted thanks to an additional ceiling light between the first bed and the table. It was not dark at all.
Another view of a guestroom. Photo by Sue Holland.
Other room amenities include a small coffee maker complete with four styrofoam cups and a package of Mickey's Really Swell coffee. The housekeeper replaces the coffee and cups each day as needed, without additional charge. There is also an ironing board and iron in the closet area of the bathroom, along with a small wall safe. A ceiling fan between the two beds helps keep the room downright chilly if desired.
Fancy drapes add to the room's elegance. Photo by Sue Holland.
The bathroom area was separated from the sleeping area by an actual door, instead of being open. There is an area to hang clothes, a pair of sinks, and in a separate area with no door there is the bathtub and toilet. Other people have reported a hanging privacy curtain rather than a door, which is similar to what is found at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. Noise from other rooms was limited to the occasional flush of a toilet, which are notoriously fast and loud at some of the Disney resorts.
Double sinks in the bathroom. Photo by Sue Holland.
Walking around the resort can be especially romantic. The buildings are painted in soft (but not faded) colors, and the metal railings re-create the style found in the real French Quarter of New Orleans. The only differencethe Disney version is clean, safe, and attractive. Mature trees line many of the narrow streets, and fountains can be found in a number of small park-like areas nestled between the buildings. During the early morning and evening the resort is quite peaceful, which makes going for a stroll very pleasant. There is also a paved path running along the river that connects French Quarter with Port Orleans Riverside to the north.
Beautiful scenery is in abundance. Photo by Sue Holland.
The resort has several amenities, which add to its charm. Arriving guests enter via French Quarter Square, which is the name of the main building that houses everything except guestrooms. The entry point is very attractive, with lots of windows to allow natural light into what appears to be an indoor park.
The front desk welcomes guests to the reopened resort. Photo by Sue Holland.
To the right is the front desk and guest services area, including bell services. The Disney Cruise Line representative works in this area, as does the Disney Vacation Club cast member manning that desk. An area is set aside for children to watch movies while their parents wait in line to get checked in.
Named after one of the main landmarks of New Orleans, Jackson Square Gifts & Desires provides a place for guests to purchase all sorts of Disney and resort-specific items. Photo by Sue Holland.
Next to the front desk is a small arcade, and a fairly large merchandise shop called Jackson Square Gifts & Desires. In addition to some Disney merchandise found almost everywhere, this shop also features logo items specific to Port Orleans French Quarter. You can enter the shop from either the front desk area or outside across from the playground.
The small food court seems adequate for simple meals. Photo by Sue Holland.
The other side of the Jackson Square area houses the food and beverage outlets. The full-service restaurant closed a few years ago, so visitors will need to travel upriver to Riverside for any meal other than food court fare. Scat Cat's Club is the small lounge, which can be quite lively in the evening. Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory reopened with the past couple of years following an extensive renovation. It is smaller than the other resort food courts, but since there are fewer rooms here that does not seem to be a problem most of the time.
You can find the usual food court offerings here, along with fresh beignets (fried square fritters covered in powdered sugar). This New Orleans favorite is a hit with many guests, and they can be bought by the half-dozen or a smaller order of three. There is no room service here, other than pizza delivery from 4:00 p.m. until midnight.
These statues lead to the pool. Photo by Sue Holland.
The Mardi Grogs Pool Bar is located next to the resort's only pool, and serves a variety of frozen drinks and light snacks. There is a small children's wading pool nearby, along with laundry facilities. The main attraction is the pool itself, with the large sea serpent. The pool is quite large, and did not feel too crowded on a recent warm spring afternoon. There are no quiet pools at French Quarter, but guests are permitted to use the pools at Riverside.
This statue welcomes resort guests to the pool. Photo by Sue Holland.
Children especially will enjoy the whimsical water slide, which serves as the tongue in the mouth of the sea serpent. It's not terribly long, and drops riders into 3.5 feet of water, making it easy for even young children to handle. Complimentary child-sized life vests are available at the pool.
Other recreation is available nearby at Port Orleans Riverside. You can rent boats and bikes (including surrey bikes seating four people) from the Riverside marina at riverside on a half-hour basis. Horse-drawn carriage rides can be reserved nightly from 6:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. There is also a simple playground for young children, located between the pool and the gift shop.
Large windows at the back entrance to the main building. Photo by Sue Holland.
Guests wishing to visit Downtown Disney have the option of taking a boat to the Marketplace instead of the bus. Along the way there are impressive views of the Treehouse Villas and the new Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
Exterior of a typical French Quarter building. Photo by Sue Holland.
Overall, Port Orleans French Quarter is a lovely resort, and a generally good value. It would be possible to spend a vacation here without going to the parks, for a romantic and relaxing getaway. Whether your priority is rushing through the theme parks or simply strolling around the resort, French Quarter should appeal to almost everyone, and I personally will look forward to future stays.
Photo by Sue Holland.