Bust Out Your Jazz Hands at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

French Quarter Collage 1

During our last Disney trip (the one we took three weeks ago and which I very much wish I was enjoying right this moment instead of hiding out in my home from another weekend of Eastern Ontario Nightmare Snow) we stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter, a resort I’ve wanted to stay at since it opened nearly 30 years ago.  A sister property to the exquisite Port Orleans Riverside, which is just on down the river bend, and at which we have stayed twice, the French Quarter shares its sibling’s incredible attention to detail in its (deeply sanitized) presentation of Louisiana, here with architecture, food, entertainment and an overall design aesthetic modeled after The Big Easy herself.

I lamented in an earlier post the unfortunate experience we had at Pop Century during our last trip.  In short, it was a gong show of noisiness, uncleanliness and general mismanagement.  We wound up cutting our stay short by four days and moving over to Coronado Springs to see out the remainder of our vacation.

No such drastic measure was required this time, because our stay at French Quarter was perfection, everything I had hoped it would be when I first spied its colourful wrought iron balconies in travel brochures many, many years ago and thought, “I want to stay THERE.”

Like both Coronado Springs and the Riverside, the French Quarter is a moderate level resort, meaning it sits at about the mid-way point in terms of room rates and offered amenities.  Being on the smaller size (1,000 rooms to both Coronado and Riverside’s 2,000) it doesn’t have its own table service restaurant, although its food court, the charmingly-named Sassagoula Float Works, named after the meandering little river that runs along the back side of the resort, is outstanding – efficient, nicely laid-out and featuring some of the best Cajun grub you’ll find outside of N’Awlins itself.  I continue to have nostalgic thoughts about the sweet-and-spicy fried chicken on a biscuit I had twice, wondering if maybe I should have replaced one of those biscuits with a steaming bowl of shrimp and grits.  Or maybe just had both.  Ahh, now we’re talkin’!  Followed up by pillowy, powdered sugar-dusted, Mickey-shaped beignets, because the French Quarter is the only place in the whole of the Walt Disney World Resort that has them.

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Every resort that we have stayed at (four now, three moderates and a value) seems to have prioritized one element of its service above all others.  At French Quarter, this was everything surrounding food and beverage service, from the actual food and beverage (oh, that chicken!) to the service itself, which was always prompt and friendly.  Zero complaints about the lack of a “proper” restaurant; if anything, I liked the food I had at Sassagoula Float Works better than the meal we had at the Riverside’s similarly menu’d restaurant, Boatwright’s.

French Quarter Collage 3

But there’s so much more to the French Quarter than its fluffy beignets, and thankfully, their exemplary approach to food extended to nearly all other areas of service, including maintenance and cleaning, groundskeeping and landscaping, check-in (fuss-free and speedy, a Disney resort first for us) and both boat and bus transportation.  The French Quarter just really seemed to have its act together on all fronts, and I liked it.  THIS is the Disney vacation experience I always hope we’ll enjoy – a virtually seamless one.

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Not to say there aren’t a few nit-picky little things I’d change about the French Quarter.  While I loved the free-form, Mardi Gras-themed pool featuring a giant sea serpent water slide (loved zipping down his tongue into the pool even more!) I found myself wishing for a second, smaller pool, a quieter spot for more lap-oriented swimmers to work off the last of the day’s amusement park energy.  Even with its smallish footprint, it’s odd that the French Quarter only has one pool; the Riverside has six!

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And while I really liked our recently refurbished and redecorated room (it felt solid and well-insulated, like our own little bubble amidst the low key hustle and bustle of the rest of the resort) I didn’t care for the lighting, which was all of the sallow, overhead variety.  I HATE OVERHEAD LIGHTING!!!  Always have.  I’m a real low lighting, desk lamp kind of person.  Even the shaded sconces above our beds cast an odd light (nasty little LED lightbulbs at work, I’m sure; I hate those things, too!)

But in all areas where it actually counted – and a lot where it didn’t – the French Quarter knocked it out of the park.  The architecture is gorgeous, a picture perfect recreation of the cleanest and most charming bits of New Orleans – wooden slat shutters, grand balconies, brick pillars and wrought iron everything.  The entire resort is laid out like a small city, with painted wrought iron balconies framing brick-edged streets dotted with hitching posts and streetlamps.  As you near the lobby, jazz music drifts through the air, beckoning you inside, where you can relax in the plush, chandelier’d lobby, or perhaps over by the soothingly trickling fountain, or maybe even inside Scat Cats’ lounge, something like a Sloe Gin Fizz in hand.  The pool was beautiful and overseen by some of the most attentive lifeguards I’ve ever seen.  The cast members we dealt with were friendly and helpful.  The buses ran frequently and on time.  The food was delicious.  Our room was quiet.  Again, excepting the One True Pool issue and my own hangups about overhead lighting, zero complaints!

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One morning a couple of days out from our flights home, I couldn’t sleep (side effect of being terrified of flying) so I slipped out of our room and took myself on a solo, 5 am walking tour of the resort, which I filmed!  Because of course it’s the new normal to be walking around at 5 in the morning talking to yourself through a small camera.  Weird world, man.  But I do hope you’ll check out this video, if not to see this lovely little resort for yourself in the (mostly) still and quiet of a balmy Florida morn, then to lend legitimacy to my whole, “See, I really was talking to someone and not just myself!” argument.  Thank you. 😉

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Pop Goes the Resort Stay

Pop Collage

Many months ago when we were planning our just-completed Disney anniversary vacation, we decided that because of the length of the trip (11 nights!) we ought to try to maximize our resort dollars with a first-time stay at a value resort instead of our usual moderate.  Out of the five value resorts on property, Pop Century was regarded as the very best, with a fun vibe to match its kitschy-tacky-cute aesthetic.

Potato Heads

So we booked our vacation, and as our long-awaited trip finally approached, we both became quite excited about our stay at Pop – the rooms had all recently undergone a much-needed refurbishment, and if they looked a bit sterile, well, they also looked bright and fresh and welcoming.  We had also heard great things about the kitchen in the food court at Pop Century – supposedly it was ultra accommodating of vegans and vegetarians like my husband, with special substitutions on offer of popular Disney favourites like over-the-top burgers and Mickey waffles.  And we had heard that it was just a fun place to stay, with a nice mix of small families and couples like us having a great time at the happiest place on earth.

I think you know where this story is going.  And I should have known where this story was going, but I had hope.

Misplaced hope, as it turns out, because we had a most unsatisfactory experience at Pop Century.  The kind of unsatisfactory that finds you begging for a room change at 5:00 in the morning.  The kind of unsatisfactory that maroons you at a packed bus stop in the pouring rain for 50 minutes with 200 other furious, soaking wet guests.  The kind of unsatisfactory that finds you just not eating dinner one night because, after waiting in a half hour lineup at the food court, they misplaced your meal.  The kind of unsatisfactory where there’s long, blonde hairs in the shower, even though one of you is a brunette and the other has no hair at all!  And ultimately the kind of unsatisfactory that leads to you booking a room at another resort at 1:00 in the morning after you’ve grown utterly exhausted with all of the above.

Oh man, what a gong show.  Where to start?  With the gargantuan Roger Rabbit figure stationed outside our building?  In hindsight, this was an omen – I hate Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with the fire of 1,000 burning suns.  I hate it about as much as I hate The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, which I also heard twice whilst waiting in line for the bus.  Omens on top of omens!

Roger Rabbit

The rooms themselves were nicely, but inexpensively, appointed.  Can’t say I blame Disney for going low on the quality of the furnishings given that people seem to have used these rooms as their personal playpens – there was not a surface in either of our rooms that wasn’t peppered with nicks, dings and scratches.  And I think the damage may be inevitable given the tiny size of these cramped units – you’re never not on top of yourself, and that’s just with two people in the room.

Pop Century

Transportation to the parks, via Disney’s internal bus system, was usually pretty great, with buses departing from the front doors of Pop Century every 20 minutes.  But travelling between parks and resorts or leaving the parks at night was a nightmare of queuing and standing and grumbling that I came to actively dread.  Most evenings we’d wait for 45 minutes to an hour for a bus back to the resort with 200 other angry guests, miffed that the THIRD bus to Wilderness Lodge had just passed us by while the second Pop Century bus in a row had been scooped by a disabled guest and their 20 accompanying family members.  One night it rained, the kind of weather event that’s more mini hurricane than rainstorm; I’ve never experienced anything so furiously intense.  Umbrellas and rain gear did nothing – we were both soaked straight through to the bone (our bones eventually dried off; our shoes and underwear…not so much!)  With the usual hundreds of guests in line, now cold, sodden and utterly exhausted, it would have been a great time for Pop to allocate a few more buses to usher us all home.  Instead we waited, and then caught sass from our bus driver for not packing ourselves in tightly enough for the stand ‘n’ drip back to the resort.  More than once or twice or five times I overheard fellow guests griping about the lack of timely bus service, questioning what exactly they were getting from their stay at Pop, with one deeply aggravated gentleman saying that were it not for the non-refundable tickets he had bought for an event at the end of the week, he’d pull the plug on his entire Disney vacation, full stop.

Pop Bus

The food court, far from being the accommodating foodie mecca I had envisioned, was an exercise in chaos studies so extreme, Dr. Ian Malcolm would have thrown up his hands and stalked out in frustration (little non-Disney, Jurassic Park humour for you there.)  Forget personalized vegetarian substitutions – the one and only time my husband ordered a vegetarian burger, it still magically showed up layered with drippy back bacon.  One evening I waited in line for 35 minutes for a basic meal of chicken nuggets and waffle fries, only to arrive at the front of the line just in time to be completely and utterly ignored.  I am apparently invisible.  Well, after that, I certainly made us disappear – disappear right off property and straight over to Coronado Springs.  But more on that necessary resort change in a moment.

Coronado Collage

Cleanliness was an issue.  Our first room was cleaned once in five days.  Disney does this thing where they offer you $10 a day if you forego “Mousekeeping.”  We’ve done this before on shorter trips, but this time we weren’t even presented with the offer.  Which we absolutely would have taken had we known that our room wasn’t ever going to get cleaned in the first place.  There were also long, blonde hairs in the shower that clearly didn’t belong to either Mr. Finger Candy or I.

There seemed to be absolutely no soundproofing between the units, particularly those with an adjoining door, like our first room.  One morning we were woken at 2:30 am by the 24-hour party people next door stumbling back to their room after what was presumably a long evening at Disney Springs.  I actually don’t think they were being particularly loud, but normal speaking voices – in addition to every creak, thud and toilet flush – registered as though they were happening right in our unit with us.  Another morning we were woken at 4:45 am by the screaming of a baby the next room over; it continued for the next three hours, while we took time out of our holiday to negotiate a room change.

To their credit, Pop Century quickly accommodated our request for a room without an adjoining door.  Of course, luggage services failed to move our luggage to our new room, necessitating a long walk back to the lobby for my husband in the middle of the night to fetch our possessions, but at least we could now enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, right?  Well, sure, so long as you could ignore the thuds coming from all around you as people lowered their already-creaky Murphy beds, threw the bolts on their doors, flushed their toilets.  In the very still of the night, if you weren’t fortunate enough to have jet engine-rated ear plugs screwed into your noggin, you could hear every ding of the elevator and every snick of the bathroom pocket doors sliding shut.  And speaking of the bathroom, you could also hear your neighbours tending to their nature needs, clear as a bell.

On the subject of the neighbours, I encountered precious few of the small families or fun-lovin’ Disney couples I had anticipated.  Instead Pop was inundated with gigantic school groups, frazzled runners in attendance for the Run Disney marathon, and large, nasty families who could seemingly only communicate in lobbed insults (in fairness, I’d be twitchy, too, if I had two adults and three kids in one of those tiny little rooms.  Oh no, wait, I DID have that one morning, thanks to the shoddy construction materials in use at this resort.)  Far from the goofy, easy-going vibe I had been expecting, the entire resort seemed steeped in a frantic, stressed-out mania that made every interaction feel like a competition for precious few resources.

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Perhaps most galling of all was that this harried, Lord of the Flies-esque vibe extended to the cast members at Pop Century, particularly those in the perpetually-slammed food court, who always let you know, if you needed assistance or, you know, food, that they had other, better things to do.  At 1 am the morning we finally decided to jump ship, my request to general Disney Services that we be moved to a new resort was punted down to Pop Century’s front desk.  I’ve no idea why the resort from which we were trying to flee would help us find new accommodations, and indeed, they couldn’t; supposedly there were no more rooms at the Disney inn.  But less than a minute later, after a quick online search, I had secured a room at Coronado Springs for the final four days of our trip.  Care to offer me a job, Pop Century?  Because supposedly I can work bookings MAGIC over here (actually, no, I do not want to work at Pop Century; I’m not very good at providing front line cover for back-of-the-house incompetence.)

Pop Lobby

Following the no-dinner debacle, I groused all the way back to our room – oh, how I wished we could move resorts!  “So why don’t we?” asked my imminently wise husband, reminding me in a flash that we were adults with the desire and – probably most importantly – the means to improve our vacation experience.  Was being forced out of our resort and into a more expensive upgrade how we wanted to spend our hard-earned money?  Of course not.  But any savings that we were realizing as a result of the value-priced room rate were completely undone by Pop’s many and varied negatives.  Ultimately, the situation at Pop Century had grown completely unlivable; the resort’s chaotic vibe was beginning to catch, if my griping and general dissatisfaction were any indication, and I didn’t want those bad feelings to infect the rest of our trip.  So we moved on, and enjoyed four great, Roger Rabbit-free days at Coronado Springs.  The only time I looked back was from the shelter of the half-filled bus to Coronado as I peeked at the 200-strong lineup of poor saps queuing up for another sleepless, dinnerless night at Pop Century and thought, “Thank goodness that’s not us.”

It’s a Fiesta at Coronado Springs!

Coronado Collage

We just returned home from an awesome long weekend trip to Disney World, during which we stayed on property at the Coronado Springs Resort – quite fitting, given that it was hotter in Orlando, Florida last weekend than I think it ever was in the actual Mayan Riviera!  Floridian friends, I know you have acclimated to a lifetime of heat, sun and humidity in the same way that I have acclimated to a lifetime of cold, snow and freezing rain, but I DO NOT know how you do it.  Mr. Finger Candy and I just wilted like a couple of pansies – and by that I really do mean the flowers; a near constant intake of water is all that kept us upright!

Coronado Springs’ reputation has – unfairly, I’d say – been somewhat tarnished on account of the great deal of construction being undertaken on the property at the moment.  There’s a large, multi-unit tower being built on the west side of the property, as well as a vast amount of landscaping work.  Given that razed flower beds and 15 stories’ worth of exposed rebar are the very first sights that greet you upon arriving at the resort, I can understand some of the dissatisfaction with the state of the place.

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But with the construction mostly confined to the front-most edge of the property, and only during reasonable daylight hours (during which we were never there), I didn’t find the ongoing renovations to the resort to be that obtrusive.  Besides, you don’t stay in the lobby of a hotel, a fun little accommodations fallacy Disney has disproved time and time again – it’s the rare hotelier that has rooms just as nicely appointed as its lobby.  Though if you were looking to bunk down in a public lobby, you could do worse than Coronado Springs’.  Please note the not-so hidden Mickey projected on the back wall of the reception area. 🙂

Lobby Collage

The property itself was gorgeous, laid out very much like another favourite moderate resort, the Port Orleans Riverside, and also like the Riverside, it was very, very quiet.  On our walk to the main Dig Site pool one evening, we had a mile-long stretch of meandering, lantern-lit path all to ourselves, with not another soul in sight.

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Coronado Springs 13

Of course, that’s because everybody else was at the Dig Site, an incredible resort pool (one of the best ones across the entirety of the Walt Disney World Resort) that we visited one evening.  The big Mayan pyramid is the Dig Site’s main showpiece, but there’s also a sweet little waterslide off to one side, a spa, a playground, lots of lounge chairs, Siesta’s, one of three on-property pool bars, and, present company excluded, many, many hard bodies.  I guess if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?

Pool Collage

Not one of those hard bodies. 😉  Or sorry, did you say HOT bodies?  Because he definitely was one of those!  Did you know the tops of your kneecaps can sweat?  Well, now you do!  However, in Florida’s defence, Mr. Finger Candy is sitting by the pool in a long-sleeved sun shirt, cotton work shirt, full pants and leather high top sneakers, and I spent three days bombing around in all black, so really, who are the dummies now?!

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Of our actual room, I completely spaced and took virtually no photos – a true shame, as we were given one of the newly refurbished rooms, and it was lovely – spic and span, up to date and very, very comfy, a wonderful place to call home for three nights.  Show of hands if you also like sprawling out in front of Resort TV at the end of a long park day!

Room Collage

I did, however, take the time to film a quick room tour for our YouTube channel when we first arrived, and you can find that video below.

For all the talk of the disruption the construction has caused, I found it to be just that – all talk.  I suppose if your Disney experience is hanging out at your resort all day long, you would find Coronado Springs justifiably lacking – not sure how happy I’d be having my relaxing pool day scored by a symphony of jittering jackhammers and reversing backhoes.  But if you’re park-bound for most, if not all, of the day, then Coronado Springs – particularly with its slightly discounted, “Pardon our pixie dust” prices – is just the resort you’re looking for.  And not for nothing, but all of the usuals are present and accounted for here – a great restaurant in the Maya Grill, a fulsome food court, a cute gift shop in Panchito’s, and a great breakfast joint in Rix, the sports bar-turned-restaurant where we enjoyed an amazing end-of-vacation feast of Huevos Divorciados (that’s Spanish for heaps of Mexican breakfast yumminess on a bed of cheese quesadillas.)

Restaurants Collage

Coronado Springs is also home to a rather splishy convention center.  We whiled away an hour or so there as we waited for the Magic Express to not-so-magically return us to the Orlando International Airport and 10 solid hours of travel.  Holy cats, what a gorgeous facility!  The carpet was utterly mesmerizing, as was the fact that that salon I’m dancing in?  Is Salon L.  Which suggests there are Salons A through K, which are presumably just as large and grand as L.  And there are more salons beyond L!  The place goes on FOREVER.  I couldn’t stop contemplating the incredible (and incredibly large) wedding you could throw in one of those ballrooms.  And then I danced around a bit more. 😉

Convention Collage

The only nit I have to pick about our stay at Coronado Springs – indeed, it was THE nit to pick with regards to virtually all of our Disney interactions – was that during check-in we were really held at the mercy of some seriously misbehaving tech.  It’s no fun feeling like you’re missing out on the fun because you’ve been stuck in a line-up merely trying to reach the fun for 40 straight minutes.  Regrettably, this bad tech juju followed us straight to the parks, where our annual passes were failing to register (did I mention we became annual passholders?!), as were our PhotoPass privileges.  To paraphrase my new friend Peter Pan, I’m not that good at math, but even I know there’s nothing that screams vacation fun quite like account management and administration. 😉

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All in all, though, we loved staying at Coronado Springs, and I think we’d go back regardless of whether the construction had ceased or not – given how we vacation, it barely impacted our stay at all, and our experience was a great one overall.  Happiness is an awesome stay at a Disney resort.  Looking forward to our next one.

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Let the Good Times Roll at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

Resort Collage Exterior

For the Mardi Gras season, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at one of Disney’s southern-themed resorts, the Port Orleans Riverside at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  My husband and I stayed at the Riverside twice last year, once during Halloween and again over the Christmas holidays, so we have a lot of information to share with you about this wonderful resort, and even more to show.  So as they’d say in New Orleans, let’s roulez les bon temps!

The Riverside and its down-the-stream sister resort, the French Quarter, sit on 325 acres of Sassagoula riverfront property and have a combined total of just a little over 3,000 rooms.  Moderate resorts both, the Riverside and the French Quarter both fall at about the mid-range of Disney hotel prices, which is to say the rates are reasonable, yet still bear very little relation to our Earth prices.  It’s the great fallacy of Disney vacations that you do eventually come to regard their pricing (for everything, from rooms, to ticket prices, to food) as “reasonable.”  You can absolutely find less expensive hotels both on Disney property and off, but if you consider your accommodations to be an important part of your vacation and not just the place you lay your head every evening, you suck it up and hope that the nervous breakdown you suffer once you open your post-holiday credit card statement is at least a funny one.

Staying on property at that slightly elevated rate does come with some rather nice benefits, however, such as access to Disney’s Magical Express, an airport-to-resort shuttle service that also collects your luggage from baggage claim and delivers it to your room, so you can get straight on to the serious business of hardcore theme parking.  Resort guests also enjoy a wealth of other perks, from Extra Magic Hours (additional first-thing-in-the-morning or last-thing-at-night in-park time) and the ability to book hard-to-get FastPasses and dining reservations two months in advance.  The reader-activated resort mugs, good for unlimited refills on soda, coffee and tea for the duration of your stay, are also pretty dope (semi-pro tip: REALLY rinse your mug out well when switching between coffee and lemonade!)

Ears and Resort Mug

But those are sweet little bonuses (or bitter and bracing, depending on how well you rinsed out that mug) afforded to all guests of a Disney resort, be it value, moderate or deluxe.  What sets the Riverside apart for us at least are the little details, at which Disney just naturally excels.  The gentle, every-half-hour boat rides to and from Disney Springs, Disney’s shopping and entertainment district.  The horse-drawn carriage rides at twilight along the banks of the Sassagoula.  The poolside campfire marshmallow roasts.  I particularly love the Riverside’s easy southern vibe – in the evenings the comforting sound of the horses’ clopping hooves mingles with the gentle jazz music drifting up from the boats going back and forth along the river, and it’s perfection.  It is just a gorgeous, gorgeous resort, and the only place we want to call home when we’re in Florida.

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Situated along the banks of the meandering Sassagoula River, the 2,000 or so rooms that make up the Port Orleans Riverside Resort are spread out among two sections, rustic Alligator Bayou along the northwestern edge of the property, home to the resort’s backwoods-style lodgings, and elegant Magnolia Bend down at the southeastern edge, with its stately, antebellum-style architecture.  When we visited at Halloween we stayed in the Alligator Bayou.  We even had a welcoming party of one very curious little raccoon hiding in the rangy scrub palms edging the walkway.

Resort Collage

For our Christmas trip, we splurged a little and booked a Royal Guest Room, beautiful themed rooms featuring all sorts of magical Disney touches.  This put us down in the Magnolia Bend part of the resort, and it was…well, it was gorgeous!  And refined and elegant and quiet, although that’s just the Riverside as a whole.  For such a large and popular resort, it is remarkably peaceful and serene; yet another huge plus in its favour.

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I quite liked the laid back, rustic vibe of the Alligator Bayou (conveniently situated right down the path from the early morning fishin’ hole and Ol’ Man Island, the resort’s main pool) but I adored our stay in the Magnolia Bend.  It was just such an unbelievably beautiful area, filled with all manner of lovely Disney touches, large and small.  I’m also quite the sucker for Colonial-style architecture, and you can’t throw a sugar-dusted beignet down there without hitting a stately column, a wrought iron railing, or both (but really, you shouldn’t be throwing your beignets at all; just take the boat over to the French Quarter and enjoy a lovely plate of them there, or maybe even a beignet-based ice cream sundae.) 🙂

Water Will

So many grand lawns!  The Riverside’s Movies Under the Stars screenings are held on the front lawn of this beautiful building.  The Princess and the Frog, the resort’s official/unofficial movie, is a particular favourite.

Resort Lawn

And there’s also about a dozen fantastic spots in which to get your selfie on, because I have completely turned into that person.  Also vlogging, because that’s now kind of a thing, but more on that in a second.

Sittin Pretty

Delightfully enough, reality lived up to our expectations, and our stay in one of the Royal Guest Rooms proved to be an amazing one.  It was such a cool (and very, very pretty) room, and filled to the rafters with cute Disney extras.  And I do mean that literally – up at the ceiling the decorative border, designed to look like ornately carved wooden molding, featured a tableau of classic Disney characters, from the Fairy Godmothers and Cinderella’s mice, to Sebastian the crab and Chip from Beauty and the Beast.  Pretty random lot, come to think of it!  Although I suppose the same could be said of all of the little Disney touches, from the Genie’s golden lamp fixtures, to the wall of princess mugshots, to the shower curtain bearing a print of Ariel’s dinglehoppers.  What do all those things have in common?  Who the heck knows!  But it sure was fun trying to sidestep Carpet every morning so I didn’t accidentally trod on his face.

Royal Room Collage

And I’ve already made all of the dirty, totally non-Disney sanctioned sex jokes about this I possibly can, but the headboards on our room’s two queen beds featured fiber optic fireworks.  Every morning as I puttered about getting ready, my husband would lay in bed in the dark and stare up at his headboard as it exploded into festive, twinkling light. 🙂

Fireworks Beds

For a closer, more exhaustive (exhausting?) look at our Royal Guest Room, please do check out this quick room tour video I put together.  This video also represents my first hesitant efforts at filming, looking like a boner in public vlogging and video editing, so please be kind!

The Riverside is also home to six pools, including the massive (and massively themed) aqua play area known as Ol’ Man Island.  On the evening we wandered over to one of the Magnolia Bend pools, I was the only hardy fool brave and/or Canadian enough to venture into the water.  Not that I minded having the entire gigantic pool to myself, mind you – gave me an opportunity to chuckle at the wussies scurrying by, bundled in thick hoodies to ward off the “frigid” 75 degree temps.  Suck it up, buttercups!  And come on in – it’s warm once you just get in!

Pool Time

Outside of the areas of accommodation and recreation, the Riverside also excels at its dining and entertainment options.  There are four places to enjoy both at the Riverside, including Boatwright’s, a popular table service restaurant specializing in Cajun delicacies (I had crawfish etouffee and it was wicked yummy) and habanero margaritas so intense, you’ll take one sip and belt yourself across the face (no, just me?)  There’s also the Riverside Mill, the resort’s counter service food court, an airy and raftered space housed in the Sassagoula sawmill.  Here you’ll find the usuals (burgers, chicken fingers, Mickey waffles) and some slightly more unusual picks (fried green tomato sandwiches, shrimp po’boys, jambalaya.)  The refill stations for those resort mugs are also in the Riverside Mill, so it tends to be a pretty busy spot.  Then right down the hall from the Mill there’s the River Roost, a cozy lounge that features the same menu as Boatwright’s, including those dangerously delicious margaritas.  Three nights a week the River Roost also plays host to Disney comedy fixture Yehaa Bob and his all-singing, all-guffawing piano revue.  We’ve yet to take in Yehaa Bob’s show, but it looks like an absolute hoot.  When we stumbled by the Roost a couple of nights before Christmas, Bob had the joint rockin’ and the entire lounge in hysterics.  Looking forward to catching this one another time when we’re not bagged-out exhausted.

Resort Collage Lobby

The grounds (325 acres of them, don’t forget; I’m sure the groundskeepers can’t!) are also so, so beautifully maintained.  Whether it’s the neatly manicured lawns of Magnolia Bend, with its tidy planters of colourful blooms, or the Alligator Bayou, with its scrubby palms and elegantly swaying willows, the landscaping is outstanding.  And Mr. Finger Candy likes to make fun of me for this, but I adore the name “Sassagoula.”  It just sounds so funny – I like to really enunciate it, draw it out.  So it fits that I love to toodle down the Sassagoula River on one of the resort’s boats, departing from the conveniently located pier just outside the lobby every half an hour for all spots Disney Springs.  This has actually become one of my favourite things to do on vacation, especially if it ends with dinner at Homecomin’ on the other end!

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And not for nothing, but the inside ain’t bad either.  The lobby is a stunning place, its architecture and interior design invoking the look of an elegant steamboat.  And while we’re here in the lobby, I’ll note that we’ve always received outstanding service at the Riverside, from the check-in staff and cleaning crew, to the bell services dudes and the restaurant staff.  Everybody’s always been super nice and friendly, but that’s kind of just what Disney does.  Anything less would seriously be considered an abject failure, and probably a personal affront to the very memory of Walter Elias Disney.  Disney employees seem to hold themselves to some pretty high standards, which as a guest, I genuinely appreciate.  Pretty decent lot, those cast members.

Resort Lobby

And when we went down at Christmas, those same cast members outdid themselves with the holiday decorating and the general festive atmosphere.  The halls (and the walls, and the rafters, and the flower beds) were decked alright, and with beautiful wreaths and a gigantic tree, in addition to those ever-present boughs of holly.  Fa la la la la la la la la!

Resort Tree

Really, though, I was unbelievably homesick on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve has always been my little family’s “thing,” and even though I was having an absolute blast (at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, my favourite park!) I missed my mom and dad.  Yes, I’m that 40-year-old who missed her parents on Christmas Eve.  To that I’d say there are far worse things than being a sentimental schmuck.  But coming back to the resort after a long day at the park to find all these beautiful decorations, including this weirdo doing the Thriller dance in front of some of them, put a smile on my face.  I thought the gingerbread displays, submitted by the various departments at the Riverside, were totally awesome, too.  The bell jar Nightmare Before Christmas display was a particular standout.  Well done, Team Riverside!

Christmas Resort Collage

So there we have it, friends, 2000 words on a hotel stay.  I swear I could spin the opening of an envelope into an epic tale.  Anyhow, if you’re still with me, thank you for joining me on this look inside a wonderful Disney resort, and my great experiences therein.  I hope you get the chance to stay at the Riverside, too, someday and make some great memories of your own.