One of the first decisions to make when planning any Disney World vacation is where to stay. Having been to Disney several times myself, we have done it both ways. Some years we've stayed on Disney property in a Disney resort, and some years we've stayed at a generic hotel off of Disney property. It really comes down to budget, what type of experience you're looking for, and what your desires and needs are for that particular trip. Staying on Disney property provides you with the full Disney experience. The resorts are themed with great detail and décor, you receive the Disney "magical touch" with customer service and hotel staff, you have complimentary and frequent transportation to any other location on Disney property, and each hotel is equipped with a pool, places to eat and is close to all the Disney parks and shopping areas. Staying off property probably gives you a little more freedom of movement, since you will most likely be renting a car or driving your own vehicle for your transportation needs, and this provides you with the ability to visit other places near Orlando besides Disney World - if your trip and time allows.
When it comes to budget, Disney does offer resorts in a few different price tiers. The lowest tier is no more expensive than what you would find in any normal hotel, and in some cases, probably cheaper. You still get the full benefits you would have when staying at any Disney property, but with a few less amenities - and probably a pool with fewer water slides. ;) There are also moderately priced resorts and the more luxury-style properties, as well. The options for pricing and resort type and style are almost endless if you choose to stay on Disney property. They have so many resorts, and they're all worth the cost, from our experiences.
For this trip it was not a hard decision to stay on Disney property. We knew we were going to Florida only for Disney World; we weren't going to be trying to see the beach or visit Sea World or any other local attractions, which meant being able to utilize the complimentary Disney transportation was almost a must - and part of the fun of the experience. Also, since it was Cody and our boys' very first Disney experience, we wanted them to get the full feel of it all. I would choose staying on Disney property nine times out of 10, and I'm glad we did for this trip.
So without further adieu, a look at our resort of choice for this vacation. This resort came highly recommended by our travel agent and friend, Brady, and it did not disappoint.
Modeled after the historic French Quarter of New Orleans, Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter resort features cobblestone streets, gas lamps, wrought-iron balconies and magnolia blossoms throughout the property. Mardi Gras characters greet you as you enter the main building and the pool facilities, and the Sassagoula River, which runs right alongside the resort, provides the perfect backdrop and gateway to other Disney properties, as well.
Though some Disney properties can be massive in size, this one was just right. A lot smaller than many, it was just a two minutes walk from our room to the main building, food and gift shop areas and heavily-used Disney bus stop. Our rooms, thanks to Brady, were located in the perfect spot - in the corner of Building 2 - level 2 - right alongside the pool and with a view of the river.
The loading dock for the ferry boat ride to Disney Springs was right outside our door, and my parent's room was conjoined with ours, which was a lot of fun for the boys. We had our separate spaces for sleeping and showering, but we all got to be together every morning and night, just by opening up the door in between our rooms.
The rooms themselves were spacious enough but cozy, with double sinks, two beds, a television that played all the best Disney cartoons and shows, as well as videos and shows from right inside the Disney parks, as well as a refrigerator for stocking our morning juices and applesauces and a table and chairs perfect for Brandon to build his new Lego sets on before bed. (There are no early bed times at Disney World!)
Each night we would return to our rooms to find some little surprise waiting for us with towels and our stuffed animals. The boys loved to see what Mickey and Donald were up to when we returned! And I loved that in the short time we were there, this place did feel like a home away from home. The rooms greeted us at the end of each long day with cool, air conditioned hugs and comfortable beds that we all loved piling into together.
In keeping with the theme of the rest of the resort, the pool is all Mardi Gras-themed, complete with King Neptune sitting atop his throne, which just happens to be a giant sea serpent water slide. Gators playing jazz instruments and clamshell water features add to the décor and help you to feel like you're in the bayou itself - except for those towering palm trees overhead!
The kids were greeted each morning in the main building on the way to the bus stop by a wonderful old and jolly jester who would give each of them a gold coin that they would keep in their pockets all day until returning late in the evening when they would then toss the coins in the wishing fountain in the main lobby. I would love to know what they wished for each night - they sure put lots of thought into their wishes before tossing those coins in!
We loved Disney's take on the French Quarter and this place will be a strong contender again for our next visit.