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Walt Disney World

Port Orleans French Quarter

Description, review & info for dealing with health issues, special needs, handicaps & disabilities


By Amy Paulshock



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With just over a thousand rooms, Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter is the smallest and most compact of the moderate priced resorts at Disney World, with the exception of its sister resort, the Port Orleans Riverside. The seven three-story buildings are scattered along the “Sassagoula River”. The theme here is New Orleans, (uh, French Quarter!), and if it was dark and you squinted, you might believe you were there.  No really, it’s very charming with its brightly painted wrought iron porches, floor to ceiling shuttered windows, little brick “streets” and “sidewalks”, and tidy front gardens. Hand glazed tiles are inset into pavement, and the streets have names like “Rue D’Baga” (get it?). There are separate Spanish-moss covered walls hiding things like a purple and gold playground or a hot tub or even a Laundromat!


Having been to the French Quarter in New Orleans, I can say that it doesn’t exactly look like this.  For one thing it’s a bit less tidy, but never mind. We appreciate Disney’s cheery take on the world.


Most of the services can be found in a central building called the Port Orleans Mint.  It is designed to resemble a bank from the nineteenth century.  This is where you can check in, shop, and eat.


Checking In: The check-in area is spacious and bright.  We were there on a Friday afternoon in August, which is a peak season.  I had expected to see it crowded; it wasn’t. None of the Internet reviews we saw seem to indicate that crowds are a particular problem at this resort. Perhaps that’s because it’s a bit smaller, but of course at the highest season all bets are off.  There is the television area with little chairs for the kids.  Nearby there is also an arcade for impatient teens, but it is hidden around a corner - so if you don’t point it out they may not notice it right away. This might be for the best if you don’t want all your hard earned quarters squandered away in the first hour. 


The check-out area is located in the Port Orleans Mint that also houses just about every other service that the hotel offers.  If for some reason the wait was really long or your room wasn’t ready, you could find food, shopping, face painting, or (if you were really bored) listen to a spiel about Disney Vacation Club ownership.


The main doors into the Mint have buttons for automatic door openers and the brick and tile floors are level and smooth.  The doors into the carpeted shopping area are not automatic, but they are propped open.  The doors into the carpeted arcade are not automatic on either side. There is also an outside entrance from the plaza, and the doors are a bit stiff and hard to manage.


There is no valet parking for cars, but like the other moderate resorts there is really no need; you are only here long enough to check in.  After that you’ll drive your car and park in a lot that's in the vicinity of the building you'll be staying in.




Layout & Getting Around the Resort: The resort is divided into two “Quarters” (questionable math: perhaps the other two are in a parallel dimension?) separated by the Mint building and the pool area. Buildings One, Two and Three are in the South Quarter and Buildings Four through Seven are in the North Quarter. If you are in the furthest room in the furthest building from the center (Building Seven) you would have to walk about 0.15 miles to eat and swim; compare that with the Caribbean Beach, where, depending on your location, you might have to walk a half mile to get to dinner. 


On the other hand, at the Port Orleans French Quarter there are no outlying “quiet pools” - only the one main water park-type pool in the center.  There is no internal bus service, so if you are in an outer building the only way to swim or eat is to walk. The bus service to the parks is also located outside the Mint building at the center of the resort. There is also no way to reserve a close-to-services, “preferred location” for extra money, which you can do at the Caribbean. If mobility is an issue for you, you can request specific buildings, but although Disney will do its best to honor your request they will not guarantee it.


Hint: Buildings Five and Two are closest to the pool, Building Four is closest to the bus stop, and Buildings Three and Four are closest to the food court.


The buildings are separated by brick roads and very narrow sidewalks themed to look like you are in a charming old city; the difficulty with this for some is that there are actually curbs. Of course there are periodic ramps for wheelchair/ECV access, but they are sometimes a little hidden, and you might have to take a slightly circuitous route to your door, or to admire a fountain, or whatever.


The resort runs along a river. Upriver is the Port Orleans Riverside and downriver is Downtown Disney.  There is a ferryboat that runs back and forth; it is about a five-minute ride to the Port Orleans Riverside (where there are other places to eat and things to do: see Dining and Resort Activities) or you could walk there - about a half mile.  It is about a fifteen-minute boat ride to Downtown Disney where there is lots to do.  It is too far to walk. Around the resort there are some large trees offering shade, but the buildings are unconnected so that the walking is all out of doors. It can be hot in the summer with lots of sun.


Note: the river, which looks brown, is not dirty.  It looks that way because so many live-oak trees line the banks; their falling leaves contain tannins (like tea) that stain the water.


Rooms & Buildings: The elegant balconied buildings are three stories and have elevators, one per building.  Depending on where your room is located, you might have a bit of a walk to get to it.  There are no internal hallways.  “Preferred location” at the Port Orleans only refers to a water view: this could mean either a view of the swimming pool or river.  If one or the other is important, make sure you specify when you make your reservation.  Disney will make an effort but as usual they will not guarantee.


The word online is that pool-view rooms might be noisy, but because there is only one centrally located pool they are sure to be close to the activities.  One hint: ask for an upper story if you want quiet.  River view rooms are chancier in terms of distance - they could possibly be at the far end of the resort. But remember that this resort is not that big, and if you crave peace, you might enjoy an out-of-the-way location.  Also, Building Seven, while furthest from the center of the French Quarter, is nearest to the Port Orleans Riverside.  If mobility is not a problem and you want the fun of both resorts, this might be the perfect spot. Building One is at the other end: far from the center of the French Quarter and even farther from the Riverside.


The rooms are approximately 314 square feet, and rather elegantly decorated, with somewhat of a Mardi-Gras theme.  If you look carefully at the Mardi-Gras bedspreads, you can find hidden Mickeys. Most of the rooms contain two double beds. There are some kings as well. Like everywhere else, internet reviews about cleanliness are mixed, tending towards the positive. Housekeeping makes little washcloth-animals here, as in all the properties, but here the animals sometimes sport Mardi-Gras beads.


The rooms have irons, ironing boards, coffee makers, hairdryers, safes, and make-up mirrors. Refrigerators (if not already in the room) and Pak-n-Play cribs are available free of charge, and high speed Internet access is available for a fee. The television gets the Disney Channel(!) and ESPN.  There is one ice machine in each building.  There is one Laundromat in the French Quarter near the pool.  There is no onsite childcare, but in-room babysitting service is available.


One note: There are no longer ANY smoking rooms throughout all the Disney resorts.  Keep in mind that even balconies are off limits, and there is no smoking allowed anywhere indoors.  There is a steep fine added to your room bill if they detect even a whiff. Smoking areas are limited to a few designated outdoor spots.  This might help allergy sufferers, keeping not only smoke but also hopefully harsh deodorizers out of rooms.


Handicapped Rooms: There are 12 handicapped accessible rooms, scattered throughout the property - not necessarily close to the center or on the first floor.  Handicapped accessible rooms have roll-in showers, roll-under sinks with lever handles, handheld showers, double peepholes in doors, and grab bars. Some wheelchairs are available for loan at the check-in desk, with a deposit. All the handicapped rooms in this resort have one king bed only, but there are stories online of families needing an additional bed being given an adjoining room free-of-charge. We imagine this happens when the room is available to give - i.e. less likely during high season.


External Defibrillator Devices: There are well-marked external defibrillator devices scattered throughout the hotel grounds - one in each building. Their locations are marked on the map that you will get when you check in.


Dining: There is only one place to eat in the Port Orleans French Quarter proper, and that is the Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory. It is located in the main building, right near the check-in. It’s a small food court, and it serves typical food fare, with a few Cajun extras.  You can get hamburgers (veggie and meat), pizza, pasta, soups, sandwiches, and bakery items, including Mickey waffles and regular and gluten-free pancakes in the morning.


The menu’s not extensive, and there were not a lot of health food type items on the list, but we were excited to get a cup of chicken gumbo soup (“It’s different every time the chef makes it!” said the server - we thought that was a good sign) for lunch.  The soup was thick with veggies and chicken, a bit oily (authentic?) and it had large chunks of spicy andouille sausage. For dessert there are burn-your-tongue-hot beignets if you ask to have them made fresh for you - everyone in line seemed to know that trick. Also along the Cajun theme, the sandwich shop sells a Muffuletta, which is a sort of sub-like sandwich with olive spread, ham, salami, cheese, onions etc. 


We tried to get ingredient lists which were not available, but as usual the server was very quick to tell us that the chef would come and chat with us.  In fact, we were told that in this food court the food could be modified somewhat (perhaps because there is no full-service alternative?). This food court also sells beer.


The Sassagoula Floatworks can be accessed from the check-in area, and is on one level; from outside there is one door also at that level that has a button for an automatic opener.  The floor is smooth.  The wooden tables and armless chairs are small.  There seemed to be plenty of space to sit, and plenty of space to move about. All of the counters are serviced by two exit areas, which could get backed up during peak dining times. One potentially handy feature (depending on your family) off to one side is a television tuned to the Disney channel.  If there are long waits for your meal, it might make for good child-distraction.


Note: Hanging overhead around the dining area are decorations meant to evoke a Mardi Gras theme. Besides the fun oversized beads and ice-cream cones, enormous painted masks and clown faces stare down at the guests. I don’t think they’re exactly meant to be clowns, but if someone in your party has a phobia, well, I suspect it would come to mind. In fact, sitting right underneath some of these faces might give anyone - or particularly anyone’s small children - the heebie-jeebies. (I, for one, obsessed about them falling down: they looked heavy from below!)


And in case the giant staring heads don’t bother those of you with phobias, right near the entrance there’s this figure of a friendly fellow who wants to welcome you in.  I suspect that many of these images are most true to the real character of Mardi Gras, but even so (or perhaps because?) some may still find them intimidating.


Near the Sassagoula food court is a small lounge called the Scat Cat’s Club; it is a full bar serving specialty drinks and light hors de oeuvres along with jazz music. It’s open from 4:00 pm until midnight. It has a smooth wood floor and small tables with both armed and armless vinyl padded chairs.  There’s also booth seating along the wall and a bar with stools. It didn’t seem too crowded for a wheelchair.  There is also a bar outside, by the pool, serving alcohol plus fun non-alcoholic drinks.


Also, the Port Orleans Riverside is only a short boat ride away. There you will find another food court with a few new offerings.  There’s also a full service restaurant: the Boatwright’s Dining Hall, serving Southern specialties such as Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Jambalaya.


Getting Around Disney World:  The Port Orleans Resort is located off of Bonnet Creek Drive, which is right near Downtown Disney. It is very close to the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.  Like all the moderate resorts, it is not connected to any of the parks, so you will have to drive your car or take the bus. There is one bus stop to the side of the Port Cochere in front of the Mint building.  There is a reasonably long shaded area with a bench, but since there is only one station serving the whole resort, it seems bound to be crowded during peak times.  Plan to stand - possibly in the sun. The bus also travels to Port Orleans Riverside as part of its route, so you will not necessarily go directly to your destination.  As we mentioned earlier, the resort is connected by water to Downtown Disney, and a fifteen-minute ferryboat ride will get you there.  The boat ride is nice even if you have no intention of getting off and going anywhere - it’s a pleasant way to see some of the back woods of Disney World.


Activities: The French Quarter shares activities with its sister, the Port Orleans Riverside, so much of what is available is actually available over there. The “boat and bike rentals” that they advertise on their web page, for example, can only be rented at the “Riverside Levee”.  You can get there by boat (it is a five minute ride) or half-mile walk. The boat drops you directly at the marina.  If you walk, it is behind the Riverside main building, the Sassagoula Steamboat Co.  They have kayaks, canopy boats, pontoon boats and Sea Raycers.  If you would like to bike along the country roads of the Port Orleans Riverside as well as the streets of the French Quarter, you can rent a bike, or a two or four person surrey in the same place.


There is also catch-and-release fishing at the Port Orleans Riverside. You rent poles and barbless hooks.


As we mentioned, there are ferryboat rides which is transportation, but because they are pleasant in themselves, they could also certainly be considered recreation. The Port Orleans ferry dock is behind the pool at the river’s edge (obviously). The ferryboats run from 9:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, although you might want to check when you get there to make sure that those hours are still in effect.  There are also horse-drawn carriage rides for a fee, but like the boat and bike rentals, they are only available at the Riverside.


In the French Quarter, there is one brightly painted purple, gold and green playground hidden under the oak trees behind the Mint building near the pool.  It sits on a springy rubber(?) surface, safe for falls, but possibly bad for latex allergies. The playground is up a curb.  There is a wheelchair ramp, but it is not immediately obvious - go around the side to spot it.


There is only one pool at the French Quarter, but it is a large one with water park features. The Mardi Gras theme continues here with an enormous purple and turquoise serpent that winds in and out of the pool. It forms bridges to walk over (with stairs) and under, and has a gentle slide from his pink tongue! An oyster shell makes a trickling waterfall to stand under.  Bright green alligator jazz musicians stand around, in some cases blowing water into the pool.  There is a wading pool with a gentle spout of water just for the little ones.  There is a hot tub, but it is a short distance away, not visible from the main pool area, in a small “city square” towards the main building. (Nice if you want a dignified soak away from the general hubbub.) If your kids are swimming at the same time, you won’t be able to see them, though (or vice-versa).


By the way: there is another larger-than-life harlequined court jester/clown right at the pool entrance – coulrophobics (those with an unnaturally strong fear of clowns) take note.


The water is supposed to be kept warm - about 82 degrees, but the day we were there it felt cooler than that.  The lifeguard herself pointed this out and seemed a bit puzzled by it.  It wasn’t troublesome to us. In the middle of August it’s almost preferable.  We thought it probably had to do with the inordinate amount of recent rain. We did notice online that there was one comment about cold swimming water at this particular resort, but it was not dated nor was it repeated anywhere else that we could find.


The entire pool has about a six-inch lip around it, and there is no zero entry.  Anyone who stays at Port Orleans has rights to swim in the pool at Saratoga Springs, and they do have a zero entry there. However, unless you have a car you can’t get there directly.  You would have to go to Downtown Disney by bus or boat and change to another bus or boat.  It’s frustrating because you pass right by it on the ferryboat.  (You could jump off the boat and swim, but the cast members might not like that.  The local alligators might.)


The pool deck itself is smooth concrete, and there were plenty of chairs when we were there.  Again, there is only one pool, so one might imagine that it could get crowded at times.  Like the other moderates, they do supply towels at the pool.  The pool is guarded during open hours that may change seasonally - you can get details you check in.


Check in at 3:00 pm - Check out at 11:00 am


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