Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SUPER ENTHUSED BLOG: Disney's Port Orleans - Riverside Resort, February 2015

During the last weekend of February 2015, I celebrated my birthday at Walt Disney World. This review will focus on my stay at Disney's Port Orleans - Riverside resort, my next review will focus on my visit to the parks during late February/early March (spoiler: it was delightful, crowd levels low). 

Port Orleans Riverside (POR) is my dream come true of a Disney resort. The grounds are beautiful, spacious and green, the staff (cast members) were pleasant and helpful, and most importantly for two adults staying with no children, it's quiet, serene and classy, but still has that detail-rich environment we have come to expect from Disney. As lovers of New Orleans, my fiance and I particularly appreciated the New Orleans/Louisiana theming. The natural swampy landscape of mid-to-northern Florida that stretches through to the panhandle and beyond to Louisiana, is worked to full advantage to help build up the ambiance of the antebellum south. The lobby is massive, designed in the style of a Riverboat, with ports of call circling the lobby. The entire complex is massive, so I'll limit my review to the lobby, food court, gift shop, grounds, the royal room and building we stayed in, located on the Magnolia Bend side of the resort.

Check in was smooth, cast members were friendly (we left our bags in the car to check in, no one asked us about our bags or asked if we wanted them taken to our room). We were asked what we were celebrating and we told them it was my birthday weekend and received the customary birthday pin (my cheeks hurt by the end of the trip from smiling and saying, "thank you," to everyone who offered birthday wishes - surprisingly, a good deal of the well-wishers were other park guests). We were given our magic bands, hotel info and were off to our room.

As we made our way from the main lobby to our room, and later as we strolled the promenades, we soaked in the lovely views of the Sassagoula River, crossed by wooden bridges. Our section of the resort, Magnolia Bend, just over a bridge and a short walk from the lobby, presented Oak and Magnolia trees strung with Spanish Moss and a meticulously landscaped lawn centered between a T-shaped building in the style of a grand southern plantation manor. 

We stayed in a Royal Room themed after Tiana of "The Princess and the Frog," with "gifts" from  other princesses sprinkled around the room. The room had two queen beds, with matching murals embedded into wooden headboards. The touch of a button triggered a cute LED firework show on the murals. On the far wall of the room was a cluster of framed princess prints: Snow White, Jasmine, Cinderella, Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle and Aurora were all featured. On either side of a round mirror towards the front of the room were flags with silhouette profiles of each prince, Adam, Aladdin, Eric, Charming, Eugene, Naveen, Phillip and "The Prince." Since the room is Tiana's Royal Suite, she is featured in a larger portrait on the wall opposite the other princesses. We spent some time looking over all of the details and checking out the LED firework headboard display.

The Royal Room, like most rooms in Disney resorts, had two queen beds. We would have preferred a king bed, but apparently that's a commodity at Disney resorts and I understanding the reasoning. Most guests are traveling with families and Disney resorts are meant to accommodate that. The queen bed was not the most comfortable thing, we actually found the king bed at Best Western to be far more comfortable, not sure if it's just the size of the bed or the mattress or what, but we understand what we are paying for with a Disney resort so we were OK with it. To be fair, we did not request a king bed on this trip, lesson learned.

Lest I forget to mention, it was raining, and I mean raining. It was really coming down that first day and didn't let up all day, so ponchos were purchased (though rarely used, because we're from Miami and a little rain doesn't bother us) at the gift shop in the lobby and we mentally prepared to be soaked.

POR's gift shop, Fulton's General Store, was a nice surprise. Fairly large with a nice range of merchandise, there is space to leisurely browse without being nudged from every side by jostling tourists. It was nice and I took full advantage, using a birthday gift card to purchase a retro Disney hoodie (because it was cold and rainy and I was not prepared for that).

We were pretty hungry after the drive up from Miami so we decided to have a snack and a drink in the hotel before heading to the parks. I am so glad that we did! The Riverside Mill Food Court features a few different stations with options including the standard burgers, chicken, salads, sandwiches and the like. We shared a turkey club type sandwich with chips and it was more than enough food for two people. The food court, like the lobby, is Riverboat themed with dark wood support beams decorating the ceiling. We sat near the window facing the mill wheel, admired the wood work a bit and enjoyed the pleasant dining experience.

We decided to stop at the River Roost Bar after eating and before heading to Magic Kingdom and I was mightily pleased to see my favorite New Orleans drink, a Ramos Fizz, on the menu. I was even more surprised and pleased that our incredible bartender, Ami, made me a Ramos Gin Fizz as close as I've tasted to the one at Arnaud's French 75. This is such a unique drink; I've been to upscale cocktail bars in Miami and elsewhere and ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz, and it usually ends up tasting like watery lemonade. It's one of those drinks that's deceptively simple; sure, it's "easy" to make, though somehow it's rarely ever made just right. Long story short, Ami made it just right and I made sure to write to Guest Services and let them know (and later got a call back assuring me that POR's management would hear about my praise. Yay!) We lounged at the bar for a bit, chatting with Ami and some other friendly patrons. As more patrons slowly trickled in and filled the bar and surrounding tables, the air filled with jovial conversation and laughter. In a great mood, we finished our round and headed to the bus area to catch our ride to the Magic Kingdom.

The bus arrived promptly, was not overly crowded and the drive to MK was quick and easy. That was a relief, as we have certainly had some nightmarish bus rides from other hotels (off property). The Disney bus is a much more pleasant experience, especially because you are dropped off past the Ticket & Transportation Center right in front of MK.

I'll talk about the park trips in my next post, suffice it to say we had a great time and lots of fun, and either due to the time of year, time of day, rain or combination, the crowd level was low, which always enhances the experience. Large crowds can make theme parks a nightmare, luckily this trip was more a pleasant dream come true.

The next morning, the rain had cleared up and we walked the grounds a bit more. POR fits the bill of an immersive experience. You are completely enveloped in the resort while on the property; the outside world is neither seen nor heard. The wide walkways and tree lined paths contribute to a serene and relaxed atmosphere. This is a perfect resort for guests who want the best of both worlds - the excitement of the parks along with a quiet, spacious, tree-filled refuge. For two adults staying with no children, this was the perfect counterbalance to the crowds and noise of the parks.

We had breakfast at the food court and this time saw first hand what we heard from afar the day before, at intervals throughout the day, some of the cast members gather up children from the food court, provide them with tambourine and noise makers, and parade around the food court to a soundtrack and a (I must admit, rather annoying) song. The parade was cute, the song I could have done without (and I love Disney songs, so that says something). I'm sure the parade was appreciated by both kids and parents, and for us it was cute watching the kids have a little unexpected fun.

Overall, our stay at Port Orleans was wonderful and really enhanced our trip. The Southern charm, luxurious landscaping and commodities as well as the friendly staff all helped to make this a great stay that I hope to repeat. A+ to Disney's Port Orleans Riverside.

* We have an upcoming stay at Coronado Springs and I look forward to reviewing and comparing that resort stay. We made sure to reserve a room with a king bed this time!

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate the generous and helpful feedback I've received from my first few posts and encourage you to please get in touch with any questions, comments, feedback or review requests at superenthused @ gmail . com.


1 comment:

  1. I've stayed at French Quarter and loved it. As usual, the theming is incredible. Riverside is on the list


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