Monday, October 3, 2011

(More to Love: Port Orleans Riverside)

As part of a Disney Cruise Line vacation, our stay at Port Orleans Riverside was very brief. The two nights that we spent at this Moderate resort were nowhere near enough, as it took no time at all to fall in love with it.

Port Orleans Riverside is the sister resort to Port Orleans French Quarter. While both resorts have a lot of similarities, there are also many differences. Riverside, opened in 1992 as Dixie Landings, is inspired by the Old South and has a lazy, relaxed feel to it. It's quite a bit bigger than its New Orleans inspired counterpart, housing 2,048 rooms. The resort was already special to me as it was the first resort that I had ever stayed in on my first trip to Walt Disney World with my parents at age 7. It was Dixie Landings back then, and I still have a souvenir glass that I guard with my life. What I remember most from back then was the working water wheel at Riverside Mill, the resorts counter-service cafeteria. I wasn't disappointed with my memory - it was still there and just as beautiful as ever.

There are two sections to the resort when it comes to accommodations: Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou. Our room was in Alligator Bayou, the smaller of the two sections with sixteen two-story buildings. Set in a rustic setting, you really feel like you could go and look for Alligators in this section of the resort. There are no elevators, so those who have trouble climbing stairs or plan on having a ridiculous amount of luggage (it happens) should request a room on the ground floor.

Magnolia Bend is almost a polar opposite of Alligator Bayou - there's still that laid back Southern feel, but instead of the backwoods swamp setting, there are grand mansions that evoke feelings of New Orleans or Mississippi when plantation homes were prevalent. Some of the buildings have three stories as opposed to two, and there are elevators for those buildings. A great way to see the resort is to take the trip by boat to Downtown Disney. This is how we were able to catch a glimpse of Magnolia Bend - it was a gorgeous, relaxing ride.

A glimpse of Magnolia Bend, as taken from the boat to Downtown Disney.

Port Orleans Riverside has a great restaurant called Boatwright's, and it's the only table service restaurant between the two Port Orleans Resorts. The restaurant does serve breakfast, though we only had enough time to try dinner. I would definitely like to go back again to do a more thorough review, but the time that we spent there was excellent. The atmosphere is relaxed and cozy, the food was delish and the service was friendly. J and I both got a filet, which I don't believe is on the menu anymore. There is a variation of the same thing on the menu now though; Grilled Tenderloin Medallions served with mac and cheese and a crawfish beignet.

Next door to Boatwright's is a bar called The River Roost Lounge. This is a very lively place. We could actually hear the festivities going on next door while we were at dinner as the restaurant and bar are in a divided yet open setting. There is a piano player there named Bob Jackson who had the crowd really going with his high energy and expert piano skills. Mike Scopa of Allears wrote a great article about Bob, read it here.

There are five quiet pools scattered throughout the resort, but the main attraction when it comes to swimming holes is Ol' Man Island. The pool is fantastic, with a geyser and water slide. There is also a hot tub, where we love to go and relax at night after a long day at the parks. The resort also offers a wide array or recreational activities, from renting a boat to take down the Sassagoula to fishing and even bike rentals and carriage rides.

Port Orleans Riverside is the perfect resort for anyone who wants to stay in a relaxing atmosphere. There's so much to offer, from great swimming pools to two tasty dining choices and tons of recreation. There are many opportunities for romantic walks at night for those lovey dovey couples, and jogging paths for the crazy people who like to exercise while on vacation (to each his own). Riverside is much larger than French Quarter, but definitely smaller than Caribbean Beach. In my opinion, it's a great size and the grounds make it all the worthwhile to take a walk around and explore. I would really recommend both Port Orleans resorts to anyone, and love them both equally.

Have you stayed at either, or both of the Port Orleans resorts? Which do you like better? I would love to hear your stories!

Happy Vacationing!

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