Thursday, November 17, 2011

Port Orleans- French Quarter

I had the opportunity to tour Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter during a recent Agent Education Program, and the moment I saw the resort, I said “This is the next resort I want to stay at.” When planning a last minute trip to Walt Disney World for October 2011 there was no discussion of what resort we were staying at. As the official vacation planner of the family, I decided we would be staying at Port Orleans-French Quarter and the topic was not up for discussion.

Themed after the French Quarter Section of New Orleans, the resort makes you feel like almost like you are staying there rather than a resort in Florida. As you enter the main entrance you are greeted by a cast member decked out in Mardi Gra attire handing out beads or doubloon “coins” to be tossed into the fountain in the lobby. The lobby area itself is not large and everything is very easy to find. The food court and Scat Cat’s Club are on one side with registration, the arcade and Jackson Square Gifts on the other.  There are 7 buildings in this resort which has a total of approximately 1000 rooms. The buildings are close together and close to the main building and bus stop so there are no preferred room locations since every building is a great location. The buildings are located along “streets” lined with wrought iron fences, gas lamplights and tiles embedded in the sidewalks with the names. There are gardens and sitting area among all the buildings.

All resort rooms recently underwent renovation and now house new queen sized beds, flat screen TVs and renovated bathrooms. Rooms also include a mini fridge and coffee maker. Access to the internet is available for $9.95 per 24 hour period and data port cords are in all rooms. Also in the room is vanity area with double sinks, iron and board, large shelf and closet area as well as a shelf with hooks in the sleeping area. The vanity area is separate from the sleeping area by a curtain which allows for privacy when family members are still sleeping.

There is only one bus stop area in the resort and is less than a 4 minute walk from any building. We stayed in building 7 in room 302 which is the building and room farthest away from the main building and the bus stop, but to me was closer than several other resorts I have stayed at (including some deluxe resorts).  The bus ride to EPCOT is 9 minutes, 12 minutes to Magic Kingdom, around 8 for Hollywood Studios and about 5 minutes to Downtown. Yes, I timed them.

French Quarter has its own bus to and from the parks. The only time we had to share a bus with neighboring Riverside was to Downtown Disney. You can take a resort riverboat up to Riverside or to the Downtown Disney area. Boat runs every 10-20 minutes depending on the time of day and run from 10 am – 11pm. The boat drops you off at the marketplace entrance at Downtown by Rainforest CafĂ©.

The resort has one main pool area centrally located and has spa areas, children areas with some cool slides and a pool bar called Mardi Grogs Pool Bar. Towels are available poolside and the laundry facilities are located here as well.

There is tons of recreation and activities at this resort. There is fishing excursions, Bayou Pirate Adventure Cruises, Boat rentals, bicycle rentals, plain ole pole fishing and scenic evening horse drawn carriage rides. Some activities are at neighboring Riverside resort and is a short walk or you can take a riverboat up to the resort. There are movies shown outside on a big screen every night (weather permitting) and every night behind building 5 you will find a campfire the makings for smores.
There is no table service restaurant at French Quarter but there is still plenty of food. The Sassagoula Food Court has a lot to offer. There are 4 food areas, plus a bakery. You can choose from Pizza, to burgers, steak sandwiches (I recommend these) and some traditional southern food. There is plenty of seating inside and outside. The hours are 6 am – midnight. Some food selections are limited after 10 pm.
Next to the food court is Scat Cat’s Club which is open from 4pm – midnight and features live entertainment Wednesday – Saturday. You can get cocktails here and either enjoy a quiet moment while the kids are at the arcade or bring the drink poolside.
Room service is not available at this resort but you can order pizza from Sassagoula Pizza Express and they will deliver to your room. Service is available 4 pm to midnight.

French Quarter to me is one of the best kept Disney resort secrets. I truly enjoyed the intimate layout of the resort, the overall theme and the fact that everything is so close. No one wants to get off a bus from a resort at the end of a very long day and then have to walk a distance to their room. The resort itself was quiet and you felt like you were on vacation, on your vacation. I have recommended this resort to several of my clients and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. I would definitely stay here again and would have to say that it definitely moved up to one of my top favorite Disney resorts that I have stayed at...and I’ve stayed at a lot of them.
I would definitely suggest this resort to anyone who is looking for a moderate category resort and wants a quiet, homey setting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort

As you check into California Grill in the second floor lobby you can tell that this is going to be one special evening. Once you have been checked in and your reservation is confirmed you are taken into an elevator up to the 15th floor of the Contemporary.
When you step off of the elevator you are immediately immersed in the excitement of this incredible restaurant! You are greeted by the host or hostess at the front desk, once officially checked you are given your pager, you are told that there are three walkways that extend outside of the restaurant and that you are more than welcome to go out and explore them. After being given permission go ahead and explore do it!
The views from the walkways are amazing, you can see everything from downtown Orlando to the inside of the Magic Kingdom. No place else can you get these views.

Once the pager goes off you are escorted to your table I personally recommend a seat next to the Kitchen, the open kitchen is a sight to see, the chefs hustling to produce the food for all of the hungry customers is very entertaining especially if you have young children. Soon after being seated the waiter or waitress will come over and take your drink order, the wine list is suburb and has a great selection of California Wines. After you receive your drinks the server will ask if you to place your appetizer order, the sushi and flatbreads are to die for. After you order the starters you will be asked if you are ready to order your meal.

You cannot go wrong with any selection on the menu. However I would recommend the oak wood filet of beef. After placing this order you then wait for your meal to come it may seem like it takes a minute to receive your dishes but trust me the staff at this restaurant have the timing of the evening down to a science. After your appetizers and main courses have arrived your server will ask you to place your dessert order, again you cannot go wrong but the cheesecake is excellent.

As you are waiting for your dessert the lights will begin to dim and the music for wishes (the firework show at Magic Kingdom) will begin. Your server will ask you if you want to go outside and watch the show and trust me you do! This is a magical experience and by far the best place in the "world" to watch fireworks from. After the show is done you may see your server setting your table with the dessert (perfect timing). This restaurant is truly amazing I personally feel that no trip to Walt Disney World is complete without a stop at California Grill.