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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter - Still Our Most Recommended Moderate Resort

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter - Still Our Most Recommended Moderate Resort 

As I've mentioned here on the site many many times, we are unashamedly "Disney Resort" people. We've done the offsite thing and in a select few ways it *can* be beneficial but for the most part staying on Disney property at a Disney resort is the best and, in my opinion, the only way to tour the parks. However, it's a rare scenario when someone is planning a Disney vacation and getting advice for their trip that the inevitable question of "what resort do you recommend?" doesn't pop up. It's a good question but one that I can't stress enough how situational the answer can be. At the same time though, one of my go to resort recommendations time and time again is Port Orleans French Quarter for reasons that I hope to share in great detail here today. 

To make a long story short, earlier this week (March 2019) we spent 4 nights in a standard room at the resort. We're notorious for staying at deluxe resorts, but on this particular trip it was just me and my dad enjoying a rare vacation on our own and this came in at the perfect price point with our Annual Passholder discount. That's one of the huge benefits of being an Annual Passholder but we recently shared so many other reasons in our The Unique Benefits of Becoming a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder That Tend to Get Overlooked article. Setting that fact of the matter aside, it was an incredible stay and fit the mold of our desired vacation style on this particularly trip. 

We weren't looking for something with the perfect room, the perfect view, or even the perfect location, and this ultimately fit the bill as it has on a select few occasions in the past as well. As an added benefit, it allowed for the opportunity to go back and update my thoughts on the resort overall and to do so from a first-hand experience standpoint. 


I could attempt to wax poetically about the theming, but in all reality the best description was a statement I overheard at the bus stop a few short days ago by another guest stating "I really like our resort. It feels nicer than what I expected." In many ways that's the ideal description for French Quarter. It's not a deluxe resort and is firmly categorized by Disney as a moderate but it has so many added bonuses when compared to the other resorts in that tier that I almost put it in a category of its own as a moderate+. Unfortunately, the price does tend to reflect the difference in accommodations in comparison, but I must say it's well worth the slight difference in price.

In all reality, it's likely the one resort I tend to recommend the most to first time Disney parks guests. It's a perfect blend of affordability combined with some unique additions that tend to give you a slight "deluxe tier" feel in a moderate resort before you decide if making the jump to a deluxe tier resort like Wilderness Lodge at a higher price. Some guests simply don't like paying deluxe tier prices and don't feel like it works for them. I will always be a proponent of deluxe accommodations but we're undeniably theming obsessed travelers and love the little details hidden around every corner. 

With all of that being said, let's dive into some of the greater details of the Port Orleans French Quarter experience.          



The Property and the "French Quarter vs. Riverside Debate" 

The best way I can describe the property itself is as classy and subtle theming in all the right ways. It's not a resort that has towering character statues the size of buildings (like many of the value tier resorts), but there's a certain upscale feel to the property that generates a great vibe. 

In the simplest of descriptions, the resort feels premium without the premium price tag. The pool area is rarely over crowded, the walkways feel quiet and almost deserted most of the day, and the luxury of it being the smallest moderate resort is a huge benefit when walking to your resort room. That simple fact alone is perhaps the greatest benefit of French Quarter. No matter what room you end up with, you're never walking miles to the counter service location or to the pool or transportation options. Everything (for the most part) is centrally located and a reasonable walking distance for the average guest. 

In our given circumstance, we had booked a standard room and utilized online check in. Our room was ready about 20 minutes before the stated check in time and we were given a room on the backside of building 5. For reference, the pool photo below was taken from the second floor walkway of building 5 on the side that faced the pool. Our room was on the opposite side of that building. We didn't have a "view" per say but we were still incredibly close to the pool and dining areas without paying for any type of upgrade. It was about a two minute walk to Floatworks and a one minute or less walk to the pool. You may not always get this lucky but it has worked in our favor at this resort many times. 

Inevitably there's always a debate of which is better, "French Quarter" or the neighboring larger sister resort "Riverside." Riverside is undeniably the bigger resort and debatably the more elaborate of the two resorts. The pool at Riverside is a bit more unique but not so much so that it sways my vote in favor of Riverside. To me, French Quarter is the perfect blend. It's spread out enough to avoid crowded areas, but also is small enough that everything is a short walk away and common areas don't feel overcrowded like many of the value resorts tend to. If you're really debating one of the two Port Orleans options, you cant go wrong with either one. Look into the pools and look into the dining options at each one and if all else fails, pick the more budget friendly option.         
  

The Resort Rooms (Standard View Room Tier) 

As touched on briefly above, we booked a standard view room. Pool view, river view, and garden view rooms are available but it's hard for me to recommend spending the extra money for any of those unless you're really dead set on a particular view. A standard view room is listed as a parking lot view, but in my experience that is rarely the case when you actually arrive at the resort. 


The resort rooms themselves are classy (much like the overall resort) and are accented by dark woods and simple decor that fits with the New Orleans inspired theming without being over the top. Our particular room was spectacularly clean, the beds were surprisingly comfortable, and the layout of the room felt fairly roomy despite our obvious comparison to deluxe accommodations. I could see the room being a little small for some families or groups primarily made up of adults, but for the two of us it worked out quite well.

As a final note, the wood floors are a nice touch, but I will say that it's hard for me to get used to the commodity style larger, in shower, shampoos and soaps at the resorts compared to the earlier years of individual toiletry size soaps in each resort room. It's not necessarily a bad thing and I applaud Disney's efforts towards being more eco friendly and cost efficient, but it's a slight gripe with an overly positive resort experience (the two items pictured were the only individually packaged items in the room).         




A nice little addition to the experience was a welcome letter from the general manager of the resort including an email address encouraging guests to share reactions and responses to their stay. I'll likely send over this article to share my own personal thoughts as a result. It's a simple option that they really did not have to have available to guests but it shows that extra "Disney" touch of class and was even paired with a business card for the head of housekeeping if any issues arose.

On our particular stay, our air conditioning unit was not working properly and literally within minutes of our call to the front desk we had a very pleasant gentleman (I wish I could remember his name) in our room fixing the problem and making sure everything was perfect for our stay. He even wrote up a report, installed a new filter because he saw ours was near time for a change, and stuck around for a brief few minutes to assure that the unit was cooling correctly and would work well throughout our stay. It was a near perfect response on Disney's part and a testament to guest service. As someone looking to find a way into this industry in the near future and as a management student finishing a degree, this particular situation is one I tend to take mental notes of and I have to say it was handled flawlessly.  

The Pool That's Better Than You'd Expect!  

In many ways, the pool at French Quarter isn't spectacular but it is exceedingly above average. The crowds are usually low, the cast members on staff are quite pleasant, and chairs are readily available more often than not. It's not a super crowded pool, but I do have to tip my hat to the lifeguards watching the pool on this particular stay. They watched this pool like it was their only goal in life to keep people safe. I know Disney has rigorous lifeguard policies, but these folks went above and beyond. A young girl came out of the waterslide disoriented for some unknown reason and her parents weren't close enough to take action. The lifeguard jumped in without hesitation and was there just in case things could have changed for the worse. It turned out the girl was fine but I find it important to note that there was no hesitation and that's not something you'll get at all resorts and especially not at non-Disney resorts. They saw a potential problem and took action and I can't express enough how much of an excellent reflection of management and training that response was. 

As a simple side note, the pool was immaculately clean. So much so that we both looked around trying to find one of those weird piles of sunscreen pooling in the corner or an arrant leaf and found absolutely nothing. It was crystal clear in a shocking way in the middle of the afternoon.        


The Food - Top Notch! 

I'm unashamedly a sucker for good food, and the counter service location Floatworks is always near the top of our list when dining at Walt Disney World. Even if we're not staying at this particular resort we typically make a trip over just to enjoy the food. Floatworks has a great array of offerings that have a slight New Orleans flare to them in a food court style environment where everything is made on the spot for each and every guest. It's an impressive dining location to say the least and if you're not positive it's for you, just check out the photos of the cheese stake sandwich below. The Po' Boy sandwiches are also top notch and no meal here is complete with trying the shockingly affordable yet incredible Mickey shaped Beignets.   
  



Transportation (The Slight Downside) 

If I had to pick one downside to Port Orleans French Quarter it would be the transportation. I'm not one to be nit picky because I don't see a point in being negative. Negativity never does anyone any good and one of my greatest goals on this site is to be positive yet honest and authentic with everything I post. This point kind of blends the difference. The boat transportation to Disney Springs was top notch and is a huge benefit to staying at this resort. It's about a 17-18 minute journey, but it's a beautiful trip down the river and across the stunning lake bordering Disney Springs. If you don't do anything else at the resort while you're here, make an effort to ride to or from Disney Springs via boat transpiration at night. The view of the lights reflecting off of the water as you traverse the lake are truly stunning! 

On the downside, we fought with bus transportation to all other destinations the entire week. Each morning we faced a line of at least 40-50+ guests at our bus stop which typically required two buses before we could get to our destination. No particular park was worse than another but the story was true on return trips to the resort as well. Even on one particularly night that I chose to stick around nearly an hour after Epcot closed to "shut down the park" and grab some photos of the near empty park we arrived at the bus stop to the entire waiting area full. Our bus stop was the only one with more than 5 guests present at this point in the night and I've never faced anything quite like it at WDW. I'm typically a big proponent of Disney Transportation but this trip had me considering Uber or Lyft on multiple occasions. I share this not to be negative but rather to share that there is no perfect resort. Was it an inconvenience? Sure. Did it ruin our trip? Not in the slightest.   
       

Cast Members 

I throw this aspect of consideration in here for one main reason and that is that I truly believe that a good cast member can make or break your vacation experience. The cast at French Quarter are quite excellent and a select few encounters stand out. On our last day of the trip, a younger lady working the beignet counter made a special effort to add a little extra powdered sugar to our beignets because, in her words, 'Somebody was being stingy making them." It was a funny encounter but one we'll laugh about for a while. 

Ironically on the same day, we had the opportunity to talk to a very nice gentleman working out in front of the resort in the guest pickup/drop off area. For the life of me I can't remember his name but he made a special point to make sure our stay went well and that he hoped to see us again when we returned for our next visit in June (at a different resort but we'll undoubtedly stop by Floatworks). He even went as far as to share a few personal stories with us and was even kind enough to share a few tips about how to work my way into a role with Disney in future. He was nice in a welcoming way even though he obviously knew we were leaving the resort on that particular day. I'm a firm proponent of trying to make every moment count on a Disney trip, but on this particular day it was increasingly difficult to say goodbye. He knew the right things to say and what he didn't know is that I'd spent the last two hours trying to pull myself away from Epcot and a place that unashamedly felt like home in an indescribable way. While that's a story for another day and something that I hope to share along the way, it was the perfect bid farewell and friendly face that you could tell loved every minute of his role at the resort. He had no idea what our situation was and had no idea that it had been a shockingly difficult day, but he was happy and helpful in a way that perfectly made all the difference for us.      

To me, that is the near perfect example of a quality cast member and an individual that I hope gets a metaphorical "gold star" along the way. It's not the big things that make a difference but the culmination of little things that you'll remember years later for odd reasons that make all the difference. It sounds strange but once you experience it you'll completely understand.               

Wrapping Up - The Big Picture 

When it comes right down to it, I'm bias in favor of Dinsey resorts, but this particularly stay felt different. Our typical choice for a home away from home is the Boulder Ridge Villas of Wilderness Lodge and they will always hold that spot for sentimental reasons, but I cant overemphasize the inherent value of Port Orleans French Quarter. It's a near perfect moderate and likely always will be our recommended resort for first time and often returning guests on a budget that may not be able to afford the deluxe tier price point. It's a blend of two styles, a resort with a select few flaws, but largely it's an experience that checks an unbelievable amount of boxes that currently firmly plants it at the top of our recommended moderate resorts. 

Your Thoughts

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