Disney World Port Orleans French Quarter Review

Written by Ken Goldenberg. Posted in Features

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Published on August 10, 2014 at 2:00 am with 21 Comments

First, a little history:  I grew up in the San Francisco area, visiting Disneyland often (the first time in 1959). I moved down to Orange County to work at Disneyland in 1976 (a couple of years as a seasonal cast member). I have been an annual passholder from the beginning, except for the few years I lived back in the Bay Area, and our current passes are the Premier Passports good for both Disneyland and Disney World.

Over the years since 1978 I have been to Disney World 8 times, staying at the Contemporary, Polynesian, Dixie Landing (now PO Riverside) and a few off-site hotels. In July of 2005 my wife set up a trip as sort of a second honeymoon that would also include my then 12-year old step-daughter. She picked Old Key West Resort because they had a good deal on 1-bedroom suites. A really nice resort and perfect for larger families, but also very large and too spread out. It was a hassle to get on an in-resort shuttle just to get up to the main bus pick up for the parks. (Word of advice, if you stay at OKW ask for a room closer to the front and main pool!)

The catalyst for going to Disney World this year was 3-fold: We had the money to have a great time and not penny-pinch, my sister was planning to go with her two boys (ages 12 and 15 – my 3 year old niece would stay home with her dad), and my daughter, having grown up going to Disneyland, was at the right age (7-1/2) and height to enjoy most everything in Disney World.

We would choose dates that would fit both our schedules. My sister’s cut off was July 4 as they needed to be back for another event, but we wanted to be there for the entire week. So it was planned my sister would arrive at Disney World a couple of days before us and leave July 4, and we would be there July 1 to 7, overlapping our stays for a couple of days.

Arriving by Magical Express – the only way to go!

Arriving by Magical Express – the only way to go!

Both my sister and I agreed we did not want to shell out the rate for one of the deluxe resorts, but still wanted to stay on property at Disney World. My first choice was one of the family suites at the Art of Animation, but they were far more expensive than I thought at about $300 per night. The standard room rate was good, but only offered the smaller double beds. I next looked into staying at either the Swan or Dolphin. Having walked through these resorts years back I remembered how nice they were, and the close proximity to both Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios was perfect. The rates were very reasonable at less than $200 per night, but unfortunately they were booked up. Next up was looking at the “moderate” resorts. Remembering I loved the locations of both PO Riverside and Old Key West, being along the Sassagoula River waterway and a boat ride away from Downtown Disney, I honed in on the smaller Port Orleans French Quarter resort.

Both my wife and I have been to New Orleans a couple of times (prior to Katrina) and were married at The Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney (a New Orleans based restaurant at Disneyland). We also love Creole and southern food, so this hotel was a perfect fit for us! And the rate was almost unbelievably low (more on that later). A standard view room (two queen beds) was only $196 per night. We upgraded to a garden view room for only $10 more, so $206 total. Wow! During the week of 4th of July no less! So both my sister and I booked our dates.

So that is how we chose at Port Orleans French Quarter. Yes I know, on with the actual review please! But with so many resorts to choose from I wanted to state why we opted to stay here. And I’m glad we did!

Port Orleans French Quarter’s porte-cochère main entrance.

Port Orleans French Quarter’s porte-cochère main entrance.

This is an absolutely beautiful resort and it really has the feeling of New Orleans (a clean, well maintained New Orleans). Upon entering through the main atrium (check-in to the right, food court and bar to the left) we were often greeted by a doorman dressed in Mardi Gras styled suit. He would give out plastic doubloon coins to the kids to throw into the fountain just inside. My daughter looked forward to this each day. Passing through the atrium takes you to the large back courtyard, flanked either side by the food court and a gift shop/store, with the pool area ahead.

The main entrance doorman that gave out doubloons to the kids.

The main entrance doorman that gave out doubloons to the kids.

Inside the French Quarter’s entrance atrium.

Inside the French Quarter’s entrance atrium.

As with all the Disney resorts, the check-in area was nicely themed.

As with all the Disney resorts, the check-in area was nicely themed.

Prior to our trip we went online and did the advanced check-in, choosing a preference for a room location (yes we chose the upgrade view garden room, but this was more specific – near the pool, or front of the resort, etc.). As I said before, my sister arrived a couple of days before us and the front desk arranged our rooms to be next to each other, so I already knew exactly where we would be. It turns out it was a perfect location: Building 5, second floor, 3 rooms down from the stairs, facing the pool’s spa area, and just a few steps to the food court. There was also a side path that led around the entrance area and out to the resort buses pick up area. A large garden area was just outside, and the pool area beyond that.

Building 5, across from the pool and near the food court.

Building 5, across from the pool and near the food court.

The room itself, while not huge, was certainly on par with most other moderate hotels and resorts. Like the exterior, it was well themed and nicely done with numerous New Orleans touches, including the wonderful Herb Ryman concept art for Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. The dual vanity sinks are separated from the toilet and shower, so two people can be using the sinks while another is using the bathroom (very convenient with kids!). The dresser/credenza has a small refrigerator with a coffee maker and flat-screen TV on top (no microwave). Free wifi (a must for us) is provided. Curiously, while there are inputs for SD cards and video cables to view content on the TV, there are no USB connections or an extra outlet for charging devices. I bring along a travel power strip that has a USB input, but I had to plug that in to a wall outlet and use a chair to place my devices on for charging.

Nicely detailed room! Plenty of storage for your clothes and other things.

Nicely detailed room! Plenty of storage for your clothes and other things.

 

The grounds of the resort are beautiful and lush and certainly mimic the real French Quarter with minimalist versions of Jackson Square and other courtyards.  One drizzly late afternoon my daughter and I took a leisurely walk around the resort to take photos and explore. Design touches abound within the look of the lamp posts, “street” signs, wrought-iron fencing, fountains, even a tiles set in the sidewalks with street names are all very real details you’d find in The Big Easy! It all makes for a very calming afternoon or evening stroll. At night the resort takes on a magical feel, almost like an iconic painting of New Orleans. The back side is set along the river where there is a meandering path that follows the water’s edge. The boat launch for Downtown Disney is also located here.

One of the many fountains, typical of New Orleans.

One of the many fountains, typical of New Orleans.

Courtyards are located in-between many of the buildings; here they have movie nights during summer.

Courtyards are located in-between many of the buildings; here they have movie nights during summer.

The walkway along the Sassagoula River will lead to PO Riverside Resort.

The walkway along the Sassagoula River will lead to PO Riverside Resort.

Just like in The Big Easy where they have tiled street markers!

Just like in The Big Easy where they have tiled street markers!

 

The look of the architecture here is spot on. Unlike PO Riverside that has two very distinct room building styles, here they are all the same. But the at the end of each building (where the housekeeping facilities are), instead of looking all the same, they created what almost looks like a separate 3-story brick building that you would find in the actual French Quarter. This is what makes a Disney resort special, details that only folks who have visited New Orleans would catch.

The kids will love the Mardi Gras themed pool area!

The kids will love the Mardi Gras themed pool area!

The “Doubloon Lagoon” pool area is still another area that is very festive in design with a Mardi Gras theme complete with comical alligator figures.  Young kids will enjoy the small water slide fashion like a sea serpent with King Neptune riding on top. This is actually one of the larger Disney World resort pools so there is plenty of room and lounge chairs (depth goes up to about 5 feet). A wading pool is off to the side and a spa is located adjacent to the path leading to the pool. There is also a pool bar with some wonderful tropical drinks (with or without alcohol) and bagged snacks.

Oversized props in the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory.

Oversized props in the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory.

The one and only dining area is the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, which looks like a Mardi Gras parade prop house. Inside there is plenty of seating with a beverage bar at the center. The food court area consists of several stations where you can pick and choose what you want, from a full meal or just side orders – no problem. All the usually family friendly options are available here (pasta, pizza, burgers, etc.) but where it really shines is the numerous Creole and southern food options – there are a lot to choose from. As I said before, we love that type of food and this place did not disappoint. Fried chicken, jambalaya, Po’boys, gumbo, greens…on and on. Even made to order beignets! Breakfast items again are numerous with all the usual items and more southern offerings such as biscuits and gravy and grits. There are plenty of grab and go items to take with you either back to your room or to one of the parks. Desserts are plenty too, but we really liked the hand-scooped ice cream and sundaes. It’s open to midnight (during the summer anyway), so coming back from a park we often stop there and have a late dessert (or for me, getting a nice bourbon from the adjacent Scat Cat’s Club lounge!). Overall we did not miss having a sit-down restaurant and with kids (and adults) not always wanting a full meal, this was perfect. The prices were, at least to us, about 30% less than what we would spend at Disneyland in California and a bargain for the most part. My fried chicken dinner, 4 pieces with two sides, was about $10 not including a drink (see the full menu and prices online at their web site), that’s what you would pay at an affordable family restaurant chain like Denny’s. And this was good food! I wish this concept was a stand-alone restaurant in our area—We would be there often!

Other amenities at the resort were basic but enough: A small arcade located by the lobby area, and a store that offered a good selection of Disney World merchandise, travel needs (even luggage, a nice extra if you find the luggage you brought was not enough for all the stuff you bought), food items, liquor, and more. Nearby the pool is a small park for kids with a climbing structure. There is also a horse-drawn carriage ride that can be had for $45 – perfect for the New Orleans theme!

Although we did have the time for the carriage tour, it’s something we will do next time.

Although we didn’t have the time for the carriage tour, it’s something we will try next time.

One of the best places we have ever stayed at! What fun!

One of the best places we have ever stayed at! What fun!

So who is this resort for? It is perfect for small families with 1-2 kids and this is primarily what we saw staying there. Because there are no other room options (other than 1 single King bed), larger families would need to request connecting rooms or might want to opt for a family suite elsewhere. It’s also great for couples being that it has a very romantic atmosphere, or just a couple of friends who want a great place to stay without spending a lot. And personally I like being in a room where I can just walk out the door and be outside rather than in a huge tower having to take an elevator numerous times a day.

Bottom line: Overall, a fantastic resort. We would absolutely stay here again. All in all, to me staying at POFQ was a bargain! The whole time I was there I kept thinking I can’t believe a resort of this quality, amenities, beautiful grounds and attention to detail was only $200 per night.

Are you a fan of Port Orleans French Quarter?

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21 Comments

Comments for Disney World Port Orleans French Quarter Review are now closed.

  1. French Quarter is actually one of the smallest resort footprints on Disney property so you don’t have the mile long hikes like Riverside, Coronado, Art of Animation etc

  2. I love French Quarter. It is the easiest of all the Disney Moderates to navigate and one of the most beautiful as well. I’ve stayed here five times and I’m sure I’ll return in the future.

  3. A family member and I went to WDW last November and stayed at the Art of Animation (standard room) but went one day to Port Orleans for lunch and kayaking. We rode the water taxi from Downtown Disney and ate at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory. Eating at one of the outside tables was one of the most pleasant and relaxing lunches we’d had during our entire stay. Had my very first beignet too. I loved the atmosphere and the walk along the river to the Riverside section of the resort to rent our kayaks. If I ever get back to WDW I wouldn’t mind staying there. Thanks for the review and photos. They brought back good memories.

  4. We stayed here in February of last year and had a great time. As mentioned, it is the smallest of the moderates so there is only one bus stop which is a short walk from all rooms. At the other moderates, there are multiple stops which makes a big difference after a long day when all you want to do is get back to your room and bed. There were movies and marshmallow roasts every night even though it was the off season.

    All this does come with a price though. POFQ is usually the first moderate to sell out and discounts are offered less frequently than at the others. I got lucky and picked a time when they were offering free dining (there was no room-only discount as there were at the other moderates.) I would stay there again some day but first I want to try POR which I walked over to visited early one morning. It too looks charming. I just hope the price difference makes up for the longer bus rides!

  5. Thanks for the excellent review, Ken!

    I almost always hear & read great things about both Port Orleans Resorts. I’ve walked through them and–like the Hotel Cheyenne at Disneyland Paris–I love that they’ve devoted creative energy and good taste to a moderate.

    You know what one thing Disney’s mini-recreations of The French New Orleans lack? The smell of vomit. If you’ve been to New Orleans, Micechatters, do you think I’m correct or incorrect on that? (I hope that, like the smell of urine in NYC in the 80s, this is a thing of the past!)

    Now, Ken, I’m going to search and keep an eye out for your reviews of the WDW parks.

    • ^ ^ correction: the French QUARTER in New Orleans. . .

    • So true jcruise86 about the smell of the real New Orleans! Especially at the end of Bourbon Street where it hits Canel St.! Glad you liked the review thank you. It took me a few weeks to have the time to do it so I really appreciate now the huge columns all the regular Micechat writers do!

    • here in Manhattan, in August, the smell of urine is alive and well

      • Decades ago when Dennis Miller hosted Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update he announced, “The stench of urine has just been named New York City’s official smell.” The audience loudly erupted with laughter and applause of agreement. I haven’t smelled pee in my last three trips to NYC during the past five years, and btw, I like the “Disneyfication” of Times Square. I remember when that area was kind of scary.

        Disney should open a hotel on Times Square. Actually they should let the Four Seasons run a Disney-themed hotel (with some rooms under $300 a night) with a small, indoor waterpark and great “Adventures by Disney” tours from the hotel. Disney hotels in Washington, D.C., and London should follow.

        –Tom Sinsky

  6. Thanks for your review. I love the resort also. It has a unique feel of relaxation and then the feel that a party it about to start somewhere. I have been there at Christmas, which is a magical at this resort.

    While WDW has no New Orleans Square to visit, this resort makes up for it as feel of the theme park, but you get to sleep there too. If only other Disney resorts carried their theme as well. Only the Polynesian had that much feel of relaxation and excitement, but now that resort is getting a downgrade.

  7. By far, the best Disney moderate. I especially love that it’s connected to Riverside, so you’re getting three resorts in one.

    Having said that, I still think they overcharge you for the rooms. At the end of the day, all of the moderates are elaborately themed motor inns. None of the rooms have balconies, and that’s my deal breaker at this price point.

    For about the same price, you can step up to a 4-star, actual hotel resort with a darn balcony off property at places like the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, the Marriott Orlando World Center or the Omni Resort Championsgate.

    For about the same price, you can step up to a 3.5 star hotel resort and walk to Disney Springs at the Buena Vista Palace or the B Resort (formerly the Hotel Royal Plaza,) or forsake a balcony for 4-star service at the Hilton Downtown Disney (plus Magic hours.)

    And for about 30% less money, also walking distance to Disney Springs, with a balcony, you can get the equivalent service and quality experience without the theme at the unsung gem on Disney property: the great value Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort.

    • Aaronius – I do agree with you overall, there are other resorts the ring Disney World that are well themed and probably 30% less. (even Nickelodeon – that place look’s like at kids paradise!) But as you may know by my other past comments, we love staying at Disney. And as I said, we are very expensive out here in California where a strip-motel on Harbor Blvd across from Disneyland is easily $250+ during the summer, and the food is more expensive, so to us it was a great deal.

    • On the flip side of the coin, they really are more then just elaborately theme motors inns, or motels in Disney Drag. The rooms may have a loosely similar layout, but honestly that is about the only thing that is similar to a motor Inn or Motel. These are resorts, they comfortable destinations in their own right, meaning you could just spend a day at the resort using the resorts amenities. True they don’t have Balconies, but either do most of the rooms at the Omni Rosen Champions Gate, or lets add the orginal non-ground level rooms at both the Poly and Contemporary’s South Garden Wing. We can also add to the list most of the rooms of the Swan and Dolphin, and also the Hyatt Regency International Drive. Even its new Tower is lacking in Balconies.

      I understand overall point wasn’t that they are motels, but rather that they are over priced for what they are. I hear you on that, but they continue to have occupancy rates that are the envy of the hotel industry, if they at time they are down when compared to themselves in prior years. But if your Business, and your goals is to make money for all of your shareholders, and the market to say… “go ahead, rise your price, we are still willing to come”… well you can understand (note that understanding is not agreeing with) why Disney prices them they way they do.

      Still its worth a mention that Disney resorts INCLUDE free parking, wifi, and no resort fee. All of those, and sometimes all THREE of those, need to be added to the room rates of many of the resorts you mentioned. They also include My Magic Plus, and that’s not just about fast past. It is a free convenience to be able to charge back to your room from anywhere on the property, and to even have your retail purchases sent to your hotel for you. What is the cost of that benefit? its free and being that no one else has it, its hard to put a price on it. Airline check in at the lobby of your Disney Resort…. also free. And this isn’t just printing your boarding pass, this is full on checking your luggaged in for your flight, also free. And of course Magic Express free. All of these options are part of the unsong and often over look benefits of staying at Disney Motor Lodge Inn and Motel in Disney Drag:)

      BTW… the first time I came to WDW, I stayed at the Best Western, then the Viscount. All the hotels on Hotel Plaza, are official hotels that Disney makes a effort to treat as on-site resorts. I will agree its nice, but dated, though I have not seen it since the refurbishment. Still its pools and dinning options will not be as varied as Port Orleans. Another non-tagible that is hard to put a price on…. what is a theme pool and an elaborate food court worth vs a check mark pool and a Bar&Grill. But yes, it definitely has balconies, and on some of these comes a kick butt view of the WDW resort.

      • Just my own personal rule: in Florida, for $130 or more a night, one must have a balcony and interior corridors. I’m one of the few people who will gladly trade thematic attributes and a more premium “on property” location for increased amenities and services for the price. I’ve now made the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress my hotel-resort of choice down there. It’s just the bee’s knees, and after a couple of decades playing the on property hotel stay collection game, in my humble opinion, I think there are vastly superior choices around the metro Orlando area for one’s money…at every price point.

      • My reply to your replies: As I mentioned in my review, we stayed at the Dana Inn in San Diego in January – great location for sure on Mission Bay and walking distance from SeaWorld. The room was the same size as Port Orleans, there was no double vanity sink area (instead a counter with a coffee maker, microwave, fridge), absolutely no extra space to hang clothes. It was $200 per night in January. $15 per day parking, and $20 resort fee (to cover the coffee and water in your room and a shuttle to SeaWorld).

        So again, to us this was a fantastic price and Kidgenie very well points out all the other perks like us checking our bags in Orange County and next seeing our bags in our room. And I actually prefer not being in a tower that I have to take an elevator every time we leave or return, a real hassle when going down to the pool. And when it was time to check-out, our bags were taken and airline boarding passes were handed to us for both Orlando and the connection in Dallas. Nice and saved another hassle at the airport!

        We also absolutely loved the Magic Bands! I rarely brought out cash or a credit card the whole stay! Go to the pool and no worries if it gets wet, go to the pool bar and a quick scan and you have your drink. Annual passholders for Disney World have these and we can’t wait until they come to Disneyland.

        Yes I know there as less expensive places to stay in the area, and I checked them out, and in fact a few trips a took in the 1980s I stayed at hotel plaza and off site places. But a family trip to Disney World I want the entire Disney resort experience. Even the transportation system makes it worth it. Leave the MK in the afternoon, a quick bus ride back to your resort for some pool time, then off to Epcot and so on. No driving! (Which also means I can have that extra drink at the pool and not worry!) And to be honest, the look on my daughter Becca’s face when seeing the towels placed on our bed in the shape of Mickey, and the Mickey soaps and shampoos — those are memories she will not forget!

        If I lived within driving distance of Disney World and went there a few times a year, then yes sometimes I would stay off property to save money. But that is a TRIP….. And we were on a VACATION!

  8. Our favorite is Dixie Landings, or is it called Riverside now? Anyway, we loved the intimate scale, and the walking paths. We could also take a water ferry to Downtown Disney which was really neat. The only bad thing was the busses took forever to get there.

    • I stayed there in 1997, out room was in one of the “plantation styled” buildings. It was great, but located pretty far from the main pool and restaurant area. I would stay there again, but ask for a room near the front by the marina.

  9. We stayed at PO once – over 20 years ago. At that time it did indeed have a sit down restaurant. We enjoyed the pool and visited Dixie Landings pool area one night. Does it still have resort specific wear such as T-shirts? And after seeing Dusty Rhodes advertise Mello Yello on WCW on TBS, I finally got to buy and try it in the gift shop.

    • The only “resort specific” merch I saw were New Orleans cookbooks. I wish there was a shirt! A nice polo shirt with the resort logo or jester on it would have been great, but I didn’t see one.

  10. Thanks for this! We are sharing this with my husband’s family because we plan on staying at Port Orleans next summer for our family trip. We’ll use the tips and choose our rooms because we make our plans as soon as we are able to book.

  11. We’ve only been to WDW once and stayed here after doing much research. It was everything people said it was and more. The one really great advantage is that it has one convenient bus stop and it is the first pickup of the day, before going to the Riverside, and the first to drop off after a long day.