Walt Disney World
Port Orleans French Quarter
Description, review & info for dealing with health
issues, special needs, handicaps & disabilities
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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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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