Frequently Asked Questions — Hints & Tips
This section will be regularly updated with various new tips, questions and user-submitted suggestions. Here you’ll find details of the best room locations, tips on how to request your preferences once you’ve decided, making dining reservations, swimming pool hopping, and lots more. Or if you still can’t find the information you’re looking for, why not ask in our Discussion Forums?
- How recently have the Port Orleans guest rooms been refurbished?
- I’ve decided I want to stay at one of the Port Orleans resorts — but which one should I choose? Help!
- How far apart are the two resorts? Can I walk between them, use the other swimming pools, or top up my refillable mug?
- All of the new Room Categories are a bit confusing, how do they work?
- Are Pool View / River View rooms worth the extra money as there are no balconies?
- What are the best room locations, and how can I make special room requests?
- Is it worth doing online check-in in advance? Will it remove my existing reservation notes or faxed requests?
- I’ve heard that Riverside in particular is quite spread out, what are the walks really like?
- There are five people in our group but we’d prefer not to stay in the Alligator Bayou section, can we ask for a Magnolia Bend room?
- I want to try some of Walt Disney World’s dining options, do I really need to make reservations in advance?
- I’m not from the USA, why am I expected to tip extra for meals when I’m already paying the restaurant anyway, including all their staff? And who else should I tip?
- I’ve heard that the free bus service to the parks, especially when travelling from Riverside, can have long wait times and often be overcrowded - what’s the story?
- I’d like to do some general shopping, where is the nearest supermarket, etc?
- How can I contact the Port Orleans resorts, is there an email address?
- Can I see any of the Disney firework shows from Port Orleans?
Note: I’ve also created two simple general-purpose FAQ files, one for each resort, which cover all of the basic questions that people regularly ask. These FAQs are freely available for non-commercial websites to download and use to help their visitors. These files, and their Terms & Conditions, can be found on the Downloadable FAQs page.
How recently have the Port Orleans guest rooms been refurbished?
All of the guest rooms at Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter have been fairly recently refurbished to feature brand new decor, flat-screen TVs and two Queen Beds instead of the old doubles (or one single King Bed if you have booked that option). All of the Alligator Bayou rooms, including the King bed rooms, now feature an extra pull-down Murphy bed (child sized, approx. 63" x 30") instead of the old trundle bed.
Work commenced on refurbishing the Port Orleans French Quarter guest rooms on Monday 1 November 2010, starting with building 7 which three weeks later was reported to be complete and ready to accept guests. On Friday 15 April 2011 the final building (number 3) was completed and rededicated, meaning that the whole of French Quarter had newly renovated rooms.
Work then started on the Port Orleans Riverside area on 26 June 2011, starting with the rooms in Acadian House. By September 2011 both Acadian House and Magnolia Terrace had been reopened with newly refurbished rooms, and then Alligator Bayou lodges 14, 36, 37 and 38 were completed just prior to Christmas 2011.
During the first four months of 2012, all 512 rooms in Oak Manor and Parterre Place were refitted to the new “Royal Guest Room” theme. Oak Manor reopened on 9 March (slightly delayed from 17 February, see our news pages) and Parterre Place reopened on 13 April. Note: these are the only two buildings at Port Orleans which contain Royal Guest Rooms, and they all feature two queen beds (no Kings and no extra pull-down beds).
Finally, the remainder of the Alligator Bayou lodges were completed, starting with building 24 which closed for refurbishment on 15 April. The last building to be completed was 26, which reopened to guests on 1 August 2012.
The next guest room refurbishment cycle will most likely start some time in 2017.
I’ve decided I want to stay at one of the Port Orleans resorts — but which one should I choose? Help!
The first thing you need to know is that all of Port Orleans is lovely and you certainly won’t be disappointed with whichever section you finally decide to book. That said, what are the main differences?
Port Orleans French Quarter is relatively small (around 1,000 rooms) and fairly formally laid out with pleasant three-story buildings set along pretty New Orleans styled streets and alleyways. That can make it a bit easier to get around, plus the resort has a very cute dragon themed slide at its pool which some kids really enjoy. The room interior decor is quite fancy and ornate for a Moderate. The resort features one swimming pool, a shop, a food court and a single central bus stop.
Port Orleans Riverside is much bigger (over 2,000 rooms) but also has a lot more facilities — a larger food court and shop, a full table-service restaurant, bike rentals and more activities such as fishing, horse-drawn carriage rides and boat tours, one large feature pool with a longer/faster slide, five more smaller swimming pools, one central and three outlying bus stops, etc.
Port Orleans Riverside is split into two distinct accommodation areas:
- Alligator Bayou: Sixteen two-story lodges (64 rooms in each) sit in a lushly wooded area and are quite spread out, with secluded rooms that have a laid-back rustic theme (with wood-hewn bedposts and furniture created to evoke the theme of storage crates, for example).
- Magnolia Bend: Four much larger mansion buildings (256 rooms in each) are set in more formal ornamental gardens and feature fancier, more ornate room decor — rather more akin to the French Quarter section. This is the only section of Riverside that features elevators, which are located in the central three-story section of each building.
Many people prefer the rather more secluded Alligator Bayou area, but there are also plenty who comment that the rustic theming feels somewhat “basic” and they prefer the comparative plushness of the Magnolia Bend rooms.
If you want to book one of the new themed Royal Guest Rooms, these are all located in the Magnolia Bend section of Port Orleans Riverside, and are a separate booking category (not just a request). Please see the Royal Guest Rooms page for more details.
The actual amenities included inside all of the guest rooms are pretty much the same in all of the sections — see the Rooms page for full details — only the theming of the decor and the design of the fittings changes. The only notable difference is that the Alligator Bayou section contains the only Moderate resort rooms on Disney property (until very recently) to officially sleep five people, as they feature an extra pull-down Murphy bed (child or small-adult sized, approx. 63" x 30") over the banquette bench seat. Similarly, King Bed rooms in the Alligator Bayou section can sleep three.
Although the bus service is normally shared between the two resorts, French Quarter’s single bus stop can sometimes give time and convenience advantages over Riverside’s four stops, especially at busy times or when separate services are being run for each resort. At very busy times it is not uncommon to hear of buses arriving at Riverside with standing room only after having already picked up at French Quarter. When this happens Disney quickly add extra buses to the route, but some guests can be inconvenienced in the meantime.
If you still can’t decide, perhaps it would help to boil the choice down to a really simple one: French Quarter is smaller and more intimate but with less facilities, whereas Riverside is larger and more spread out, but with more varied landscaping and a lot more to see and do.
Personally, as I get asked this a lot and for what it’s worth, I prefer Riverside over French Quarter for the wider range of facilities and more varied and lush environment. I’ve stayed many times in both of its sections, and although Alligator Bayou was my ‘first love’, I now enjoy alternating with Magnolia Bend on different trips, as both areas have their own unique charms. Proximity to other features (main building, bus stops, pools, etc) is probably a bigger consideration for me than mansions vs. bayou.
At the end of the day, bear all of the above in mind and then just choose whichever theme appeals to you most — you really won’t be disappointed either way! Oh, and don’t forget that whichever you do finally choose, you can always stroll over to the other resort in around ten minutes and make use of all the facilities there — including the swimming pools. Which brings us neatly to the next question...
How far apart are the two resorts? Can I walk between them, use the other swimming pools, or top up my refillable mug?
Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside are ‘sister’ resorts in that they operate under one management structure and share a number of facilities. Although they may appear to be some distance apart on a map or when you’re driving or taking the bus, in fact the dividing line between the last building of French Quarter (Building 7) and the first of Riverside (Parterre Place) is merely a narrow road bridge. It’s a very pleasant short walk alongside the Sassagoula river bank between the two resorts, and you can comfortably stroll the 875 yards from one food court to the other in around 10 minutes.
Other options include taking the Sassagoula Water Taxi which runs every 20 minutes or so and takes around five minutes to travel between the two docks. You could even use the Disney buses as some of the bus services call at both Riverside and French Quarter — but do check with the bus driver first, in case the bus you are trying to catch is going straight on to its final destination!
Because the two Port Orleans resorts are linked, anyone staying at either resort is able to use all of the facilities at the other — including (unusually for Disney hotels) the swimming pools. Indeed, the walk between the two main feature pools is just 985 yards should you wish to try them both out in one session. There is probably more incentive for guests staying at French Quarter to travel over to Riverside though, as many of the major facilities are located over at the somewhat larger Riverside resort. These include the only table-service restaurant (Boatwright’s Dining Hall), cycle rentals, evening horse drawn carriage rides, the fishin’ hole and the five quiet pools. On the other hand, the French Quarter food court is the only place to get beignets!
And yes, you can purchase a Rapid Fill refillable mug from either the Riverside Mill or the Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory and get unlimited hot or cold drink refills from beverage dispensers at any of the resort food courts within Walt Disney World for the rest of your current stay. You cannot use your mugs to get free refills in the theme parks though.
All of the new Room Categories are a bit confusing, how do they work?
There are currently ten room categories available at the Port Orleans Resorts (five news ones, including Royal Guest Rooms, were added in 2012) priced with varying nightly surcharges above the standard rooms. See the Room Rates page for the current pricing structure in detail.Regular Guest Room Booking Categories (excludes the Royal Rooms located in Riverside’s Oak Manor and Parterre Place mansion buildings):
- Standard: These rooms mostly tend to face towards parking lots, or have partially obscured views (such as beside stairways, etc). Standard view rooms are located all around the resort, EXCEPT for Preferred Locations. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $197 to $299.
- Garden View: These rooms offer pleasant views of the gardens, courtyards (including water features and fountains), landscaping or bayou — but NOT of the parking lots. Garden View rooms can be located in any of the buildings EXCEPT for Preferred Locations. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $203 to $308.
- Preferred Location (located in Riverside’s Alligator Bayou section ONLY): These rooms offer close proximity to the restaurants, transportation and main buildings at Riverside. Preferred rooms are ONLY located in Alligator Bayou lodges 14, 15, 18 and 27 — there are no preferred locations in the mansion buildings or at French Quarter. Views vary and can include parking lot or bayou/stream/garden outlooks — but not pool/river views. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $232 to $332.
- King Bed: These rooms feature one King-size bed only, and have a maximum occupancy of two persons (or three in the Alligator Bayou section, due to the extra fold-down bed). Views and locations vary around the whole of the resort, and some can feature pool or river views or may be the within preferred buildings but are still booked under the King Bed category). Note: there are no King Bed rooms available in the Royal Guest Room buildings. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $221 to $327.
- Pool View: These rooms offer swimming pool views and are spread out all around the resort, for example French Quarter buildings 2 & 5, Riverside 16, 17, 18, 24, 25, 35, 36 and 39, plus all of the mansion buildings. (Note: only six Pool View rooms at French Quarter are on the ground floor, most are on the upper floors) 2016 prices vary seasonally from $217 to $327.
- River View: These rooms offer direct views of the Sassagoula River, including some mansion building rooms which view the river across courtyards or lawns. They do not guarantee any particular proximity to the main buildings — however at Riverside, all of the directly river-facing rooms tend to give fairly convenient access to the facilities areas anyway. River View rooms can be located in French Quarter buildings 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7, or at Riverside in Alligator Bayou lodges 14, 27 and 38 plus the mansion buildings. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $218 to $350.
- Royal Guest Room: These are the cheapest of the Royal Guest Rooms and generally face towards parking lots, or have partially obscured views (such as beside stairways, etc). 2016 prices vary seasonally from $244 to $347.
- Royal Guest Room Garden View: These rooms offer pleasant views of the gardens, courtyards (including water features and fountains) or landscaping — but NOT of the parking lots. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $250 to $352.
- Royal Guest Room Pool View: These rooms face towards the nearby quiet swimming pool, and they are all very conveniently located for easy access to the main buildings. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $263 to $378.
- Royal Guest Room River View: These rooms offer direct views of the Sassagoula River, including some rooms which overlook the courtyards or lawns in front of the river. However at these prices some people have commented that you could stay at a Deluxe resort. 2016 prices vary seasonally from $250 to $376.
Note: Alligator Bayou is the ONLY section which contains additional fold-down beds. If your booking includes five people aged 3 or older, you will automatically be assigned an Alligator Bayou room. There are no Royal Guest Rooms which allow this.
There is no dual-classification between the various booking categories, each room falls into one specific band only. Thus all rooms with a king-size bed are classed as “King Bed” rooms, even if they also happen to be in Preferred Location buildings or may have pool or river views. Similarly, non-King rooms with views overlooking the river — even in the Preferred buildings — count as “River View” rather than Preferred. The same policy applies for the six Pool View rooms in building 18. The booking categories for every room at the resort are listed on the Building Floorplan Maps page.
So for example, if you wanted to try to get a king bed room with a pool or river view, you should book a King Bed category, and then add a request for a Pool/River View if available. The same applies if you want a River View in a preferred buildings; book for River View and then add a request for a close location. See the Making Special Room Requests page for more details.
Port Orleans Resort — Booking Category Quantity Breakdowns
|Area / Room Type||Standard View||Garden View||Preferred Location||King|
|Pool View||River View||Total|
|Royal Guest Room Mansions||136||263||-||-||36||77||512|
|Regular Magnolia Bend Mansions||131||273||-||40||41||27||512|
|Alligator Bayou Regular Buildings||128||495||-||39||92||14||768|
|Alligator Bayou Buildings 14, 15, 18 & 27||-||-||204||15||6||31||256|
Are Pool View / River View rooms worth the extra money as there are no balconies?
Opinions vary tremendously on this one. You have to remember that the Moderate resorts have no internal corridors so you access your room via a shared outside walkway which runs all the way around each building. This means that you don’t have your own private balcony outside your room and many people say that it’s therefore pointless paying extra for a view which they feel you can’t sit and enjoy. Some people even keep the curtains fully closed while they are in the room in order to prevent any occasional passers-by from glancing in — although to my mind that rather defeats the object of having a window in the first place.
My own opinion (for what it’s worth) is that the outside walkways rarely serve more than about a dozen rooms before the next access point, so they are never very busy and there isn’t enough foot traffic for it to become a worry — especially on the upper floors. You can also angle the blinds slightly so that you can still see some of the view, but preventing people who are walking past the room from accidentally looking in.
It is also possible to create a kind of “poor man’s balcony” using the recessed alcoves outside the doorways. It’s not uncommon for guests to take their room chairs outside in the warm Florida evenings and enjoy a pleasant glass of wine on their “patio”. Just be prepared to make way politely if someone comes along with a double-stroller after a long day at the parks — or why not offer them a drink!
Also, some view categories will guarantee that you’ll be located in particularly desirable areas of the resort. Preferred Location is the obvious one of course, but there are several others with distinct advantages too:
- Riverside River View: These rooms all overlook the riverbank pathway which runs all the way around Ol’ Man Island. None of them have long walks to either the feature pool or to the main buildings — indeed, some of the River View rooms in buildings 14 and 27 are even more conveniently located than rooms which are sold under the Preferred Location category.
- Royal Room Pool View: Almost all of these rooms are in Oak Manor (plus two in Parterre Place) and are all very near to the footbridge leading over the river to the main buildings and the South Depot bus stop. They are also quite close to the East Depot bus stop. As there are no Preferred Locations in the Royal buildings, this is the best option for guaranteed convenient access from a Royal Room.
- French Quarter Pool View: These rooms are all located within buildings 2 and 5, and so are some of the most centrally located rooms for easy access to the main building and the boat dock (not to mention the pool of course).
- Garden View vs. Standard View: Almost all of the Standard View rooms overlook parking lots, and while there are lots of trees and other vegetation to partially obscure an otherwise concrete outlook, a Garden View room assures you of a much more pleasant ambiance when you step outside your room.
What are the best room locations, and how can I make special room requests?
Please see our detailed pages on Room Categories and Locations and Making Special Room Requests. Please remember that any room requests are just that, requests. Disney cannot guarantee to fulfill any special requests apart from medical requirements.
If you’ve got any comments about your favourite room locations, or regarding your experiences in getting special requests fulfilled or otherwise, please let us know via our Discussion Forums.
Is it worth doing online check-in in advance? Will it remove my existing reservation notes or faxed requests?
Personally, yes I do suggest doing online check-in via the My Disney Experience website at any time up to 60 days before your arrival. Provide as much information as possible to help reduce the amount of time that needs to be spent at the Front Desk (if any) and if you have already made special requests via your original booking then leave the extra request tick-boxes empty. Think carefully about your choice of whether you’d prefer to try to have your requests met (even if that may mean some waiting) versus simply getting a ‘ready room’ as soon as you arrive, but which might not be in quite such an ideal location.
However, if you are planning on sending a faxed request too, make sure that you do the online check-in BEFORE sending your fax.
At the resort, online check-in really only starts to differ from regular check-in a few hours before your stated arrival time. A cast member processes all the online check-ins in batches, and creates welcome packs ready for guests who are imminently due to arrive at the Front Desk. If a room as been ‘blocked out’ in the system already — perhaps based on an earlier fax, or if it’s a group booking — then you should still get that room, even though there may be a wait if it has not yet been cleaned and made ready. Otherwise, they will check through any previously noted requests first and then pick as suitable a room as they can find from the pool of available rooms at that moment.
Then, when you arrive, the Front Desk team will generally be able to process your checkin a lot quicker than if you just turn up — in fact, during peak hours they sometimes even catch people in the lobby before they even join the line, and check them in via iPads.
There is now also an optional “Direct to Room” facility provided for guests who have completed the full online checkin process and received their Magic Bands by post, making it possible to go directly to the assigned room upon arrival without visiting the Front Desk at all. See the Magic Bands and Online Checkin page for more details.
Finally, if you really don’t like the location of the room you’ve been assigned, you can always ask the Front Desk to check again to see if anything better has become available in the meantime, or even offer to wait for another room to be cleaned and be made ready.
I’ve heard that Riverside in particular is quite spread out, what are the walks really like?
Although French Quarter is nicely compact and probably the easiest of all the Value or Moderate resorts to get around, the furthest rooms in Riverside can indeed be a bit of a trek from anywhere — although there are some rooms, such as those in Alligator Bayou 14, which are literally steps away from the food court door. The ability to book a Preferred Location room (located in Alligator Bayou only) is a major advantage for anyone who wants to really cut down on walking distances, but if you prefer the other themed sections then a River View booking would tend to help, as the river cuts right through the middle of the resort.
To put all of this into a more quantifiable and tangible perspective, here are some of the best case and worst case walking distances from ground-floor rooms in the various Port Orleans Riverside areas, taking the best walking routes into account:Alligator Bayou Preferred Location > Food Court: 55 yds / 250 yds
Alligator Bayou Preferred Location > South Bus Depot: 170 yds / 435 yds
Alligator Bayou Preferred Location > Ferry Dock: 277 yds / 443 yds
Alligator Bayou (regular room) > Food Court: 221 yds / 585 yds
Alligator Bayou (regular room) > South Bus Depot: 280 yds / 770 yds
Alligator Bayou (regular room) > Ferry Dock: 443 yds / 803 yds
Acadian House > Food Court: 307 yds / 499 yds
Acadian House > South Bus Depot: 482 yds / 674 yds
Acadian House > Ferry Dock: 454 yds / 646 yds
Magnolia Terrace > Food Court: 245 yds / 458 yds
Magnolia Terrace > South Bus Depot: 420 yds / 633 yds
Magnolia Terrace > Ferry Dock: 392 yds / 605 yds
Oak Manor (Royal Rooms) > Food Court: 286 yds / 488 yds
Oak Manor (Royal Rooms) > South Bus Depot: 303 yds / 505 yds
Oak Manor (Royal Rooms) > Ferry Dock: 275 yds / 477 yds
Parterre Place (Royal Rooms) > Food Court: 249 yds / 456 yds
Parterre Place (Royal Rooms) > South Bus Depot: 266 yds / 473 yds
Parterre Place (Royal Rooms) > Ferry Dock: 238 yds / 445 yds
Acadian and Magnolia’s best routes are walked via Ol’ Man Island, Oak and Parterre’s are via the alternative bridge just to the south of the marina. The Alligator Bayou routes, even from the northernmost locations, are slightly shorter along the riverside pathway instead of cutting across Ol’ Man Island. The best-case distances are generally from River View rooms, while the worst-case distances are from the more remote Standard or Garden View rooms.
So, based on an average walking speed of 3mph — and assuming you don't get lost or stop to smell the roses en route, both of which are quite possible — that gives the shortest Magnolia Bend walks to the food court at about 2' 45" and the longest ones at around 5' 40". Walks from Alligator Bayou to the food court vary from a tiny 45" to about 6' 40".
Whether you choose to use the outlying bus stops or the South Depot depends very much on your exact room location, but for reference the shortest possible distances are as follows:West Depot > Alligator Bayou 24: 171 yds
West Depot > Alligator Bayou 35: 94 yds
North Depot > Alligator Bayou 37: 99 yds
North Depot > Acadian House: 83 yds
East Depot > Magnolia Terrace: 113 yds
East Depot > Oak Manor: 160 yds
For Parterre Place, the South Depot is almost always closer than the East Depot.
The walking distances within French Quarter are significantly shorter than Riverside, with the minimum distance from a guest room to the food court being about 20 yards and the maximum (from the far end of building 1) only being 350 yards, a four-minute walk.
There are five people in our group but we’d prefer not to stay in the Alligator Bayou section, can we ask for a Magnolia Bend room?
Prior to the closure of the last few double-bedded rooms in the Magnolia Bend mansion buildings it was possible to request a wheeled fold-up ‘roll-away’ bed for a fifth person, or to allow two older children to avoid having to share the same bed, but now that the refurbished rooms include new, slightly larger, queen beds this facility has been withdrawn as from Sunday 11 March 2012. It is no longer possible to have five people allocated to any of the mansion building rooms (including the new Royal Guest Rooms) unless that fifth person is a toddler under the age of three. The same has applied to the refurbished rooms at French Quarter for a while.
Alligator Bayou is now the only section of Port Orleans which includes an extra bed to accommodate a fifth person in one room. The newly refurbished rooms all now include a pull-down Murphy bed (child sized, approx. 63" x 30") over the banquette bench seat. The new pull-down beds also feature in the updated King Bed rooms incidentally, which means that they can accommodate up to three people (and this is now a bookable option as from May 2013).
Some people suggest taking an inflatable bed (single size, aka twin air mattress) in order to provide somewhat more flexible family sleeping arrangements. An air mattress of this type should fit into the new queen bedded rooms, but unfortunately you still cannot have more than four people (plus an infant) officially assigned to a non-Alligator Bayou room.
I want to try some of Walt Disney World’s dining options, do I really need to make reservations in advance?
Walt Disney World has more than 70 table service restaurants spread around the theme parks and hotels, plus any number of counter service and snack-food locations — surely it can’t be that difficult to eat on the spur of the moment can it? Well, that used to be the case a few years ago but recently Disney has introduced their “Disney Dining Plan” which effectively enables guests to prepay for all their meals for the duration of their stay. This means that there is now a large number of people who have already paid for their food before they even set foot in the resort and naturally this has created a massive increase in demand, especially at the full service restaurants.
To make this situation even worse, during otherwise slower times of the year (for example mid-August/September) Disney has started offering the Dining Plan for free to accompany certain types of resort booking, and at these times the better restaurants can get booked solid many months in advance.
While it may still be possible to walk up to some of the less frequented locations at off-peak meal times and get a table, if you want to eat in any of the more popular restaurants at anything close to a normal meal time, it has unfortunately now become essential to make reservations in advance. If you try walking up to somewhere like the Le Cellier steakhouse in Epcot, or character dining locations such as Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, they will most likely tell you they have absolutely no availability for several weeks to come.
Luckily, making Advanced Dining Reservations (or ADRs) is very easy. The simplest way is to do it online using the WDW Dining Reservations site or the My Disney Experience app, where you can see availability based on date, time and group size and then make your reservations (which can be linked to your hotel booking as long as you are logged in to your Disney account when you make the booking). You can also call Walt Disney World on 1-407-WDW-DINE (1-407-939-3463) and tell them where and when you would like to eat and they can do it all for you.
Tip: if you can’t find the location and time you want, try modifying the time a little, or adjust the size of your group (e.g. try looking for a table for 4 rather than 2 or 3).
ADRs can be made up to 180 days in advance of your planned dining date. Disney hotel guests also have an extra benefit of being able to telephone 180 days prior to their arrival date and then book restaurants for the whole of their stay, up to a maximum of ten more days. You may see this referred to as simply “180+10” on many websites, but remember that the +10 rule is based from your resort arrival date. To do this online, you will need to have your 12-digit hotel confirmation number available.
Recently, Disney has made several improvements to the system which have made it somewhat easier to book at the more popular locations. First, the booking system will now try to prevent one person (or at least one login) from booking multiple restaurants at the same time, which some people try to do in order to leave their eventual options open. Also, you now need to provide a credit card guarantee at the time of booking. You can still cancel at any time up to one day before the meal, but if you simply don’t show up then you will be charged a $10 per person fee. Finally, some signature restaurants require two Dining Plan credits for one meal now, which has somewhat reduced the overwhelming demand at the Le Cellier steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada for example.
So please don’t assume that you can just wait until you check in at Port Orleans and then decide your dining choices for the week, or you may end up disappointed. It may not be as spontaneous as it used to be but unfortunately, with demand so high, you either have to plan a little or accept that most of your Disney meals will be counter service or fast food.
I’m not from the USA, why am I expected to tip extra for meals when I’m already paying the restaurant anyway, including their staff? And who else should I tip?
To explain this, you first need to understand the unusual way that restaurant and bar serving staff are paid in the USA. Unlike for example in the UK, American staff are only paid a minimal amount by the management of the restaurant or bar for them to turn up for work. Their real wages however are paid directly by the customer, cutting out the middle-man so to speak. This is one of the reasons that some foreign visitors — especially Brits — comment that menu prices in the USA can be cheaper than at home, where service is generally included in the bill.
A tip of between 15% and 20% of the pre-tax meal or bar bill is generally accepted as normal in most of the USA, and Disney helpfully list calculated figures for both an 18% and a 20% tip on the receipt. If you are on a Disney Dining Plan, or using the Tables in Wonderland card, an 18% tip will be automatically added to your bill (based on the original meal cost prior to the dining plan deductions) which you will pay along with any other non-plan items, etc.
If you happen to receive bad service, it’s best to still leave a nominal tip (e.g. $1) to indicate that you are not simply an “ignorant Brit” who does not know how to pay for service, but that you are specifically commenting on poor service. You can of course also tip a bit extra for exceptional service, much like you would in the UK. If the actual food is poor, please take it up with management rather than penalising the wait staff.
All of this only applies to table-service meals and bars/lounges though, you don’t need to tip at all for quick/counter service, and you can tip a smaller amount (perhaps 10%) at a buffet meal. At bars, $1-$2 per drink would be acceptable rather than a percentage. Taxi drivers should be tipped around 15%-20% too, and baggage porters should be tipped at $1/bag. Room housekeeping at Disney is considered an optionally tipped position, but an amount of $1 per guest per night is about normal.
I’ve heard that the free bus service to the parks, especially when travelling from Riverside, can have long wait times and often be overcrowded - what’s the story?
This is one of the most common criticisms levelled at the Port Orleans resorts, particularly as their size and popularity means a lot of guests want to use the service. However it’s also one of the hardest to get any definitive information on. For every online posting saying “we had to wait over an hour for a bus, not everyone could get on, there was a virtual mutiny at the bus stop” there are just as many people who say they stayed at Port Orleans for two weeks in July and never experienced any problems with the buses. While serious complaints are admittedly rare, there does seem to be a worrying element of inconsistency regarding the bus service.
Suffice to say that waiting for an hour is NOT the norm — if it were, the Disney complaints department would be mobbed by now. Ideally you should never have to wait for more than 20 minutes for a bus to anywhere, and often a good deal less. Disney tracks all of its buses by GPS and can adjust the services and the routes according to demand. They can also add extras buses at short notice to cater for peak times.
However, no matter how good any bus service might be, there are going to be certain times of day when long lines are simply unavoidable — the most obvious being when an entire park-full of guests tries to leave at the same time (after a closing fireworks show for example, such as Wishes at the Magic Kingdom or Illuminations at Epcot). My own advice is to try to avoid being there at these busiest times, by either exiting before the end of the fireworks or just hang back in the park and enjoy the sights or do some shopping for a while to allow the worst of the crowds to disperse before you exit.
For specific information about the routes that the buses take, the various stops available, and details of where and when the two resorts share a combined bus service and when French Quarter and Riverside provide their own separate direct services, please see our Bus Service page.
And one last thought before you rush online to post questions asking for people’s experiences with the buses: imagine you have been waiting 40 minutes for an Epcot bus, and when one finally turns up someone else happens to stroll up to the bus stop and just hops straight on with no wait. You’re both riding on the very same bus, but while they are going to tell all their friends how wonderful Disney’s buses are, you might have a somewhat different story... The truth, as ever, lies somewhere between the two experiences.
I’d like to do some general shopping, where is the nearest supermarket, etc?
There are a few essentials items available at the hotel gift shops, but at vastly inflated prices of course. The next closest option for very simple basics would be the Hess gas station opposite the central ‘Landings’ section of Disney Springs — just walk across the main road from the Planet Hollywood area [CLICK FOR MAP].
A little further away, but still within walkable distance from Disney Springs, is the Goodings store at the Crossroads mall. This is a long-standing local supermarket located at the far end of Hotel Plaza Boulevard, about 20 minutes walk from the Rainforest Cafe end of Disney Springs [WALKING MAP]. The walk back with heavy bags of shopping in the Florida heat might not be fun though!
If you’re driving, the nearest WalMart Supercenter from Port Orleans is on Vineland Road (SR535) about five miles away [DRIVING MAP]. There is also a large Publix grocery store a little further along the same road, close to the intersection with the 192 [DRIVING MAP], and there is a Super Target on the 192 itself [DRIVING MAP]. Another possible option would be the WalMart Superstore on the intersection of John Young Parkway (423) and Sand Lake Road (482) as that is on the way to the Florida Mall if you happen to be making a trip there [DRIVING MAP].
How can I contact the Port Orleans resorts, is there an email address?
Sorry, there are no direct email addresses for use by guests of any of the Walt Disney World resort hotels, with the sole exception of guests staying in the Concierge level rooms at the Deluxe hotels. The only way to contact any department at Walt Disney World by email is to use the main Guest Relations address, wdw.guest.communications
You can telephone, fax or write to the hotels though, and all the contact details are given in our main Riverside and French Quarter information pages. However please be aware that when you telephone the resort (and also when you call the Front Desk from your hotel room phone) you will be answered by a central Walt Disney World switchboard which is NOT located at the resort itself. The operators there can answer a good many general questions on behalf of the resort, and even access the hotel’s computer system, but if your enquiry needs to be answered specifically by someone who is on-site then you’ll need to ask to be connected directly to the resort. Fax messages are received directly by the back office staff at the resort though.
Can I see any of the Disney firework shows from Port Orleans?
Not really in any great detail, as the theme parks are too far away and the trees tend to obscure the view. You can glimpse and hear the higher bursts of the Illuminations show over Epcot at around 9pm and sometimes Wishes from the Magic Kingdom, but you won’t be able to hear the music or see any of the other show elements which rather defeats the point. The best views (such as they are) would probably be from the upper floor rooms overlooking the parking lot in the northern section of French Quarter — such as buildings 4 or 7.