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August 27, 2012

Port Orleans Riverside - Room Refurbishments

Jack Spence Masthead


Over the last several months, all of the rooms at Port Orleans Riverside have been refurbished and slightly redecorated. Last week I spend a couple of days here so I could film and photograph the new Alligator Bayou and Mansion rooms. While I was there, I was also given access to a Mansion Accessible room which I will also cover today. The new Royal rooms were discussed in another blog so these will not be discussed at this time.

This blog is strictly about the new room designs. If you'd like to know more about the resort and its amenities, check out the article I wrote two years ago by clicking here.

The Alligator Bayou rooms are located in 16 two-story lodge buildings. They are nestled in groves of pine and oak trees which create the feeling of backwoods wilderness. The exterior of the lodges have not changed with the refurbishment.


Alligator Bayou Lodge Exterior


Inside the room, we'll look first at the two queen beds. The headboards have not been altered from the previous design. They appear to be made out of small logs and branches. However, the bedspreads have been updated. They now sport scenes from around the resort.


Two Queen Bed

Bedspread


The decorative pillow features Louis from the Disney animated film, "The Princess and the Frog."


Louis Pillow


Two lantern-styled lamps can be found above the beds. Each is operated by a separate switch located over the nightstand.


Lantern Lighting

Lantern Lighting


The nightstand resembles a shipping crate that might have traveled along the Mississippi in another era. On it are a telephone and clock radio.


Nightstand


The picture on the side wall is that of the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland. It was painted by Disney Legend Herb Ryman.


Blue Bayou Picture


All rooms have at least one, large window. Corner rooms have two. Besides blackout curtains, Venetian blinds allow guests to adjust the amount of outside light that enters the room.


Window


Beneath the window is a reasonably disguised air conditioner. In the past, the controls were on the unit itself. Now, a wall-mounted thermostat operates the device. This is a nice improvement.


Air Conditioning

Thermostat


Like the headboard, the room's table appears to be made out of logs and branches. The chairs have slat backs and are painted dark brown. The carpet continues this wood theme and looks like peg-and-groove construction.


Table & Chairs

Carpet


The biggest change to the Alligator Bayou room comes in the way a fifth person is accommodated here. In the past, inconvenient trundle beds were located under one of the primary beds. These have been done away with and replaced by an easy-to-use foldout bed. Resembling more shipping crates, this single bed opens and closes with ease. When the bed is open, we see Louis again, dreaming an alligator dream.


Fold-down Bed

Fold-down Bed

Fold-down Bed


FYI: This bed is intended for children and young teenagers. An adult would be a little tight on space.

When not in use as a bed, this structure offers bench seating. Beneath the bench are three drawers. On one of the drawers we see a stenciled silhouette of a steamboat. The lettering says Willie Inc. Est. 1928. This is in reference to Mickey Mouse's debut in the animated short "Steamboat Willie."


Bench Seating

Willie Inc


On top of the "crates" is a shelf, perfect for the storing of wallets, jewelry, room cards, and park tickets. You'll also find convenient audio-visual outlets for connecting your video camera to the TV.


Shelf

Audio/Visual Connections


Next to the foldout bed is a cupboard that houses a small refrigerator and two shelves. On top of this cabinet is the coffee maker and ice bucket. The hammered tin door is especially appealing with its scene of water lilies and cattails.


Cabinet and Shelves

Refrigerator

Coffee Maker

Tin Door


Above this cupboard is a coat-rack adorned with Mickey. However, the close proximity to the coffee maker below makes this coat-rack almost useless except for very small items.


Mickey Coat-rack


All of the walls have been given a texture treatment. I don't know if this is wallpaper or plaster, but either way, it adds a nice, rustic touch. Rough-hewn wood planks circle the ceiling.


Textured Walls

Ceiling Molding


The vanity area of the bathroom is separated from the bedroom by a curtain.


Vanity Curtain


The old bathroom design featured two pedestal sinks. This was attractive, but offered very little counter space. These have been replaced by a vanity unit with two sinks. Beneath the counter are shelves and a decorative washboard. The two mirrors are framed with "branches" that match the headboard and table. The number 92 on the washboard represents the year the resort opened. The hairdryer on the wall has a small light on the bottom of the unit. This makes a perfect nightlight.


Bathroom Vanity

Washboard


Next to the sink is an open closet. There is plenty of space here to hang your clothes. Also in this area are extra bedding, an iron, ironing board, and key-locking safe.


Open Closet


The toilet and tub/shower are located in a separate room. The shower walls are covered in a material that resembles wood planks. The shower curtain features a non-Disney design of fish.


Shower

Towels

Shower Curtain


I liked this new design of the Alligator Bayou room very much. It was rustic, but didn't reek "outdoors." It still retains some sophistication. I was comfortable here and suspect most others would be too. If you have five people, or a son and daughter that require separate beds, I would highly recommend one of these units.

To see a three minute film of an Alligator Bayou room, check out my video below.



Whereas the Alligator Bayou section of the resort offers backwoods charm, the Mansion section of Port Orleans suggests stately elegance. Four massive buildings, each with a different Southern Plantation design, house the rooms here.


Mansion Building


The two queen-sized beds are draped in a non-Disney blue bedspread. A dust ruffle covers the lower mattress.


Two Queen Beds

Bedspread


Each headboard features a beautiful painting inspired by real places at Port Orleans Riverside.


Headboards

Headboard Scene

Corresponding Resort Scene

Headboard Scene

Corresponding Resort Scene


Above each bed is a simple, but elegant light fixture. Once again, they are operated by switches above the nightstand.


Bed Lighting


The nightstand is of an unassuming design which features a shelf and a drawer. A phone and a clock radio sit on top.


Nightstand

Nightstand


The window is draped in a rich fabric of elegant design. Venetian blinds add additional lighting options.


Window Treatment


A round table and two chairs offer a nice spot to set up your laptop. I was especially impressed with the chair coverings. Additional fabric hangs below the seat cushions. In the scheme of things, this extra material is completely unnecessary, but adds a stylish touch worthy of the Grand Floridian.


Table and Chairs

Chair


The chest has three drawers and a cabinet that houses a mini-refrigerator. The flat-screen TV and coffee maker sit on top.


Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers


I must use this opportunity to complain. I see this time and time again in EVERY Disney resort. It is a minor inconvenience, but it annoys me.

Many small refrigerators have reversible doors. Why is it that Disney doesn't match the way the refrigerator door opens with the way the cabinet door opens? When one door opens to the left and the other to the right, it makes accessing the unit difficult. They should both open in the same direction.


Refrigerator Door


Next to the chest is a cushioned bench. Above this is a Mickey coat rack. The arrangement here works better than at the Alligator Bayou rooms as there is space beneath the coat-rack, allowing you to hang longer pieces of apparel.


Bench & Coat-rack


The picture on the wall is of Disneyland's Mark Twain riverboat.


Painting of Mark Twain


Like the Alligator Bayou rooms, the controls for the air conditioner have been moved to a wall unit.


Air Conditioning


The bathroom vanity is located behind a hand-drawn curtain.


Vanity Curtains


The vanity has a large counter-top with two sinks. Above this is a shelf and two mirrors and the room has more than adequate lighting. A hairdryer hangs on the wall.


Vanity-Sinks

Vanity-Sinks


The open closet has plenty of hanging space, an iron, ironing board, and a small safe. I have the same complaint with the safe as I do with the refrigerators. Why can't the safe door open toward the wall? By opening away from the wall, it becomes more cumbersome to use.


Open Closet

Safe


The toilet and tub/shower is located in a separate room. The shower walls are covered in a plastic material that hints at tile work.


Tub Shower

Tub Shower


I like the Mansion Rooms. They are nice. Very nice. But I didn't feel that the theming was anything out of the ordinary. Remove the picture of the Mark Twain and a few other Disney references, and I could be in any nice motor lodge around the country. On the other hand, the Alligator Bayou rooms are loaded with character. You will not find rooms like these at your local motel. Disney has taken the decorating of their rooms to a new level. The Alligator Bayou rooms are a good example of this. The Mansion rooms are nice, but nothing to write home about.

To be fair, I'm not sure what Disney could do to "plus" the Mansion rooms any more than they already have. But when you stay in an Alligator Bayou room one night and a Mansion room the next, the differences become more obvious.

To see a two and a half minute movie of a Mansion room, check out my video below.



While on my most recent trip, I also visited an Accessible Mansion room. Since the overall décor is identical to a standard Mansion room, I will only highlight what has been changed to make this room "accessible."

You may have noticed, at all of the moderate resorts, the doors are placed within an alcove. (First picture.) In order to give the Accessible rooms a little more square footage, these alcoves have been eliminated. (Second picture.)


Standard Door

Accessible Door


The doors of Accessible rooms have two peepholes -- one at a standard height and a second at a level convenient for someone sitting in a wheelchair.


Door Peephole


The beds are several inches lower than in standard rooms for easier access.


Lower Beds


The switch plate above the nightstand also has an electrical outlet so you don't have to go searching for it along the baseboard.


Electric Outlet


Between the beds and the room door is a full-length mirror.


Full Length Mirror


Standard rooms have a round table. Accessible rooms have a square table designed for those using a wheelchair.


Square Table


In making the bathroom larger and more convenient, the closet in the vanity was eliminated. In its place, a large wardrobe was placed in the bedroom area. In it are shelving, hanging space, the iron, and ironing board.


Wardrobe Cabinet

Wardrobe Cabinet


Unlike standard rooms that use a curtain to separate the vanity area from the bedroom, Accessible rooms use a solid, pocket door.


Pocket Door


The bathroom has been radically redesigned from the Standard room. First, it's one large room rather than two. This allows the toilet area more space. Handrails have also been added for support.


Toilet


There is only one sink with no cabinetry below. This frees up this lower space for those riding in a wheelchair. To make up for the lack of counter space, additional shelving has been added nearby.


Sink

Additional Shelves


The shower is designed to be "rolled" into. Dual height controls and a shower head on a flexible hose provide easy access. A fold-down chair is attached to the wall.


Roll-in Shower

Shower Controls

Shower Seat


To see a two and a half minute movie of an Accessible Mansion room, check out my video below.



That's it for my coverage of the new room decors at Port Orleans Riverside. This is a great resort and I highly recommend giving it a try sometime.



May 4, 2010

Port Orleans – Riverside

Port Orleans Logo


I recently spent three nights at Walt Disney World - each night in a different resort. I experienced a value (Pop Century), moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and deluxe (Wilderness Lodge Villas) resort. I did this so I could update some of the pictures on Allears.net and to gain information in order to write reviews.

But before I start discussing Port Orleans Riverside, I'd like to share with you some of the general differences between resort categories.

The first interesting fact is the "room charging privileges" afforded guests. In each case, I secured my reservation with the same credit card. In the value resort, I was told I could use my room key to charge up to $500 to my account. In the moderate resort I could charge $1,000 and in the deluxe $1,500.

There was definitely a difference in the quality of the toilet paper and the thickness of the towels between the budget and deluxe resorts.

The deluxe room offered shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub. The budget and moderate resorts only provided shampoo.

And of course, room size. The more you pay, the bigger the room.

Okay, onto Port Orleans Riverside.

Construction started in the fall of 1989 and the resort opened on February 2, 1992 as Disney's Dixie Landings with 2,048 rooms. On April 1, 2001, the resort merged with the nearby Port Orleans Resort. Dixie Landings was renamed Port Orleans - Riverside and what was Port Orleans became Port Orleans - French Quarter.

From this point forward, I will refer to the resort only as Riverside.


Riverside%20001.jpg


The Riverside Resort harkens back to the old south of the 19th century. The place? Somewhere along the Sassagoula River. Sassagoula is an Indian word for Mississippi. A small town has sprung up along the river's banks and both the wealthy and common folk have populated the surrounding area. This was a graceful era when jawin' with your kinfolk on the front porch with a mint julep in hand was the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Your stay begins underneath the porte-cochère where bellmen can help you with your luggage and direct you to the check-in desk. Also in this area is the Airline Check-in counter. At departure time, those guests using American, Continental, Delta, United, JetBlue, US Airways, AirTran and Southwest can check their luggage and receive boarding passes at this location and skip the hassle found at the airport.


Porte-cochère

Airport Check-in


Check-in takes place inside the Sassagoula Steamboat Company building. This area was designed after the inside of an actual riverboat. Check-in time is 3pm. If you check in early, you can make arrangements for the front desk to call you when your room is ready to be occupied. Bell Services will be happy to store your luggage until that time.


Check-in Counter


Be sure to check out the ceiling in the check-in area. Circling the room are a number of cities serviced by the Sassagoula Steamboat Company.


Ports of Call


Located off the main lobby is Fulton's General Store. In addition to the typical Disney souvenirs and clothing, snacks, sundries, magazines, and baby products are available. This shop also has several animated Disney characters worked into the displays.


Fulton's General Store.

Fulton's General Store.

Fulton's General Store.


Next to Fulton's is the River Roost Lounge. This cozy location offers overstuffed chairs and an inviting fireplace. If you want to mingle with others, have a seat at the bar and strike up a conversation with fellow vacationers and the friendly bartenders.


River Roost Lounge

River Roost Lounge

River Roost Lounge


But the best thing about the River Roost Lounge is "Ye Haa" Bob Jackson. This hilarious guy performs Wednesday through Saturday from 8:31pm to midnight. To call his show a sing-a-long would be a misnomer. It's more like a bunch a friends getting together for a toe-tappin' good time. Familiar songs, antics, and audience participation fill the evening - and kids are more than welcome.

I can't recommend this show enough. Bob has a loyal following and to many, a trip to Walt Disney World without seeing his performance is unthinkable. Plus, the show is free! There is no cover charge and no minimum drink order. So even if you're not residing at the Riverside Resort, I strongly urge you to head this way one evening during your stay for a knee-slapping good time.



If you're looking for a quieter, more intimate moment, check out the River Roost Lounge on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday evenings. This establishment is open daily from 4pm until midnight.

I have put together a five minute video featuring some of the highlights of "Ye Haa" Bob Jackson's show. This will give you a good idea of what's in store.



The River Roost Lounge is also a good spot to wait for a table to open up at Boatwright's Dining Hall next door. This restaurant is fashioned after an old ship building facility and actual tools of the trade line the wall. The center piece of the restaurant is the under-construction "New Orleans lugger." Lugger boats were used to haul cotton up and down the Mississippi River in the 1820s. This authentic reproduction was built by the Brewer's Ship Yard with plans secured from the Smithsonian Institute. Other sections of the restaurant feature a more intimate atmosphere complete with fireplace. Boatwright's can seat 208 guests.


Boatwright's

Boatwright's

Boatwright's


I wrote a review of Boatwright's Dining Hall in July 2008 and you can read it by clicking here. Boatwright's is open only for dinner. The hours are 5pm to 10pm. Reservations are strongly suggested and can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

The other dining option at the resort is Riverside Mill Food Court. This eatery was themed after an old Southern cotton mill and features a cotton press powered by an authentic 35 foot water wheel. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from five stations and offers a wide variety of options. Everything from pizza, pasta, hamburgers, chicken, custom-made salads, and outstanding carrot cake are offered. In addition, a selection of beer and wine are on hand. I've had a number of meals here over the years and have always been pleased.

Breakfast is served from 7am to 11am. Lunch and dinner from 11am to 10pm. The bakery is open from 6am to midnight and a limited night menu is available from 10pm to midnight. The seating area can accommodate 450 guests.

A word of warning" I ventured into the Riverside Mill Food Court around 10am on the morning of my visit. I have never seen such an onslaught of people. The line at each food station had between 15-20 people waiting to order - and the lines at the cash registers were similar. I strongly suggest dragging yourself out of bed early to avoid this madhouse unless you really enjoy standing in line and eating cold food due to the long wait to pay.


Riverside Mill Food Court

Riverside Mill Food Court

Riverside Mill Food Court

Riverside Mill Food Court


The Medicine Show Arcade, located in the Sassagoula Steamboat Company building, offers kids, big and small, a chance to lose themselves for a while in electronic magic. The arcade is open 24 hours a day.


Medicine Show Arcade

Medicine Show Arcade


When you stand back from the main buildings of the resort, you can see that they are designed to look like a small town along the river.


Town along the River

Town along the River


In the mood for a little recreation? Then head over to the Riverside Levee. A number of boats, bikes, and surreys are available for rent by the hour and half-hour. In the evening (6:00-9:30), 25-minute carriage rides are the perfect way to enjoy the resort's ambiance. The carriages can hold four adults or two adults and three children.


Riverside Levee

Carriage Rides


But for me, nothing beats seeing this resort by foot. Numerous walkways pass by manicured lawns, through the woods, and along the Sassagoula River. It's very easy to forget you live in the 21st century while strolling along these pathways. Your imagination can effortlessly transport you back to a simpler time. Be sure to notice the leaf imprints in the pavement. These were made by pressing real leaves into the wet concrete and removed once the cement began to set.


Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Resort Pathways

Another wonderful feature of the Riverside Resort is the boat service between here, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Downtown Disney. Service begins each day at 10am and ends at 11pm. The two and a half mile river offers a lovely and relaxing way to travel and the boat ride is an attraction in its own right. I especially enjoy this journey at dusk. The river takes on a whole new magic at this time of day.


Boat to French Quater and Downtown Disney


Legend has it that Ol' Man Island was settled in 1835 by a young man. This retreat became his home deep in bayou country. As the years passed, a nearby town was settled and prospered. Eventually, the children of the settlers discovered the island and the many wonders it presented. Today, a number of activities can be found here for the young and young at heart. Everything from a fantastic swimmin' pool, playground, and fishing hole tempt guests.

The pool (12,980 square foot and containing 158,000 gallons of water) offers numerous waterfalls and fountains along with a great slide. Towels are available at the Ol' Man Island pool. However, the "quiet" pools do not offer this service and you will need to bring them from your room. If you need more, just call housekeeping and they'll be happy to replenish your supply. There are plenty of lounges, tables and chairs scattered around the pool - some in the sun and some in the shade. Children under twelve must be accompanied by an adult while in the pool area.


Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool

Pool Slide

Pool Table and Chairs

Playground


At the Fishin' Hole, cane poles and bait are available for some leisurely recreation. Catfish, bass, and bluegill are just waiting to nibble at your hook in this stocked section of the river. Also available are two-hour guided fishing adventures down the Sassagoula River in a pontoon boat. Twenty-four hour advance reservations are required for this event.


Fishin' Hole

Fishing Boat


Need to cool down after a long day in the parks? Check out Muddy Rivers Pool Bar for a cold beer, frozen Margarita, or soft drink. This shady spot is the perfect place to unwind and relax.


Muddy Rivers Pool Bar


While on Ol' Man Island, be sure to check out the giant live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) located on the back side of the swimmin' hole. On Earth Day, April 22, 1991, this tree was transplanted to the island. Months of preparation and three days of effort were required to move this 85 ton tree from an area located in what is now Disney's Animal Kingdom.


Giant Live Oak Tree


The guest rooms at the Riverside Resort are divided into two sections, Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou. Each section has 1,024 rooms. Although furnished differently, the rooms are all the same size and configuration (315 sq ft). Most rooms sleep four in two double beds; however there are a number of rooms that offer one king. Almost half of the Bayou rooms offer a trundle bed (extra charge) enabling you to accommodate another child. Both resorts feature "quiet" pools that may be closer than Ol' Man Island and definitely more peaceful. Ice and vending machines are plentiful and self-service laundry facilities are available at each quiet pool.

The rooms at Magnolia Bend have been cleverly incorporated into what looks like stately plantation mansions that were once plentiful throughout the old south. Here, grand staircases, stately white columns, and intricate railings create a regal atmosphere befitting a wealthy gentleman and his lovely lady. The grounds have been planted with azaleas, oaks and magnolias with the occasional fountain to be found within the manicured lawns.


Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend

Magnolia Bend


Alligator Bayou is located in "cajun country" and features small cottages or "villages" that would be indicative of the rural bayou regions of Southern Louisiana. Once again, numerous guest rooms have been cleverly incorporated into large, weathered wood buildings with tin roofs. The buildings' massive size has been ingeniously masked by the numerous trees and vegetation that encircle each structure.


Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou

Alligator Bayou


Here are several pictures of the interior of a bayou room. Although Disney is currently replacing all of their tube TVs with flat screen models, the room I stayed in had not yet been changed over. Note, the shower and toilet area has a door; however the vanities can only be separated from the bedroom with a curtain.


Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior

Alligator Bayou Room Interior


Other room amenities include high-speed internet access ($10 daily fee), safe, iron, ironing board, refrigerator, coffee maker, and hair dryer. Disney is also promoting "green" behavior. On the back of the room door is a sign asking you to check that the television and lights are turned off, to make sure the faucet isn't dripping, and suggest that you use your towels an extra day.


Keep it Green


Transportation to the four theme parks and Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon is available via Disney buses. Four bus stops are positioned around the resort for your convenience.


Bus Stop


Port Orleans Riverside is a physically large resort. Some rooms are definitely further from the Sassagoula Steamboat Company and its facilities than others. If mobility is an issue for you, be sure to note this when you make your reservation and again when you check in.

I like this resort. And I'd have a hard time choosing between staying at Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. Both are unique and offer so much beauty in entirely different ways. The elegance of the "mansions" is compelling, but the simple charm of the Cajun cottages beckons as well. There is no wrong choice. No matter where you stay, you'll fall in love with is graceful resort.

I have created a nine and a half minute video covering most aspects of the resort. Since I know someone will ask, the music selections are as follows: Let the Rain Pour Down (from Disney's Song of the South), Shenandoah, and Banjo Clog. Enjoy.


Related Links:

Port Orleans Riverside FAQ
Port Orleans Riverside Photo gallery
Port Orleans Riverside Reader Reviews


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About Port Orleans Riverside

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Port Orleans Riverside category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Port Orleans French Quarter is the previous category.

Saratoga Springs is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.