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More updates on the Port Orleans Management Restructuring

Posted on Sunday 14th February 2016 by The Sassagoula Sentinel

The recent changes in the management structure at Port Orleans are becoming a little clearer (well, to me at least!) so I thought a minor update was in order. The main aim seems to have been to reduce the amount of management layers between the General Manager level and the hourly-rate cast members to just two steps. Port Orleans was pretty much there anyway, so these tweaks have been relatively minor.

Several new "Proprietor" roles have been created, which are an amalgamated department manager role covering more than one traditional line of business, Where this has caused some positions to disappear (such as in Food & Beverage, Recreation and Merchandising) those staff have been redeployed as Duty Managers at different resorts and there have been no enforced job losses - although at least one retiree who oversaw Food & Beverage across multiple Sassagoula area resorts has not been replaced. A few hourly positions have been lost or reorganised too - such as the roving iPad-wielding additional checkin staff - but those CMs have been rotated into other roles within the same departments.

So the new management structure looks like this:

Port Orleans Riverside
General Manager: Suzette Noble
Proprietor, Rooms and Recreation: Lon Rydberg (also overseeing new Guest Experience Managers supervising the front desks)
Proprietor, Food & Beverage and Merchandise: James Campbell
Proprietor, Housekeeping and Custodial: Mintaka Senanayake (a previous Guest Service manager from French Quarter, before she transferred to Caribbean Beach three years ago)

Port Orleans French Quarter
General Manager: To be announced
Proprietor, Rooms and Recreation: Stefanie Shomper (also overseeing new Guest Experience Managers supervising the front desks)
Proprietor, Food & Beverage and Merchandise: Matthew Vache
Proprietor, Housekeeping and Custodial: Drew Weaver

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Ol' Man Island Bridge Closure and other Construction Updates

Posted on Thursday 11th February 2016 by The Sassagoula Sentinel

The main access bridge leading from the Riverside Marina and food court over to Ol' Man Island is currently closed for three weeks to allow worn-out wooden decking to be replaced, and for some structural work on a support beam to be completed. This work has been timed to coincide with the refurbishment of the feature swimming pool and the reduced occupancy levels in the Magnolia Terrace mansion building to attempt to reduce the amount of guests inconvenienced by the closure.

The bridge should be re-opened by Saturday 27 February but in the meantime guests will need to use the riverbank pathways and alternative bridges in order to cross to the other side of the resort or to access the children's playground and the fishing hole.

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Work is continuing on the Ol' Man Island pool refurbishment, and more vegetation has been cut back beyond the seating areas in readiness for the installation of new perimeter fencing. Work is currently still on schedule for completion by 4 March.


Progress is finally being made on the children's water play area at French Quarter, and it looks like they have now finished the underground piping work and laid most of the remaining concrete pathway. Although there still appears to be a lot of work left to do, the target completion date currently remains at 29 February.

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Additionally, construction staff are working around the perimeter edges of the main pool area, adding additional wrought-iron safety fencing between the pool deck and the Mardi Grogs seating area, and also installing lockable gates at the main entry/exit locations. I believe this is most likely part of a general Disney response to two recent tragic incidents involving children who accessed hotel pools unaccompanied or outside of lifeguard hours (see Orlando Sentinel articles in March 2013 and July 2015).

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For more photos, see the Refurbishment Information Page.

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Port Orleans Mardi Gras events mostly cancelled, 9 Feb 2016

Posted on Sunday 31st January 2016 by The Sassagoula Sentinel

Update on 2 Feb: I've just been informed that the afternoon Mardi Gras activities planned for Port Orleans French Quarter on Tuesday 9 February, including the character greetings, have been CANCELLED for this year. The cut-down version of the cast member pargo parade will still take place at 10am though. The Recreation Activity Schedules that had already been printed for this month have been withdrawn, so I've removed them from the site too. I'll provide further updates as soon as I know more.

With all the departmental shake-ups going on at Port Orleans at the moment I'm still awaiting the full Recreation Schedule files for February (although quick photos are on the site). However I can confirm that the annual Mardi Gras 'pargo parade' put on by cast members will be going ahead on Tuesday 9th February at 10am, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale than in previous years.

This year’s theme will be "Candyland", but only six instead of the usual ten pargos will be used. The different lines of business (Custodial / Engineering / Food & Beverage / Front Desk / Housekeeping / Merchandise / Operations Learning & Development / Recreation / Watercraft Transportation / etc) will be combining to create the floats, and I'm not sure whether there will still be a departmental competitive element or not.

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Maintenance Updates & Management Restructuring News

Posted on Friday 29th January 2016 by The Sassagoula Sentinel

A quick roundup of the latest news on the various refurbishment projects going on around Port Orleans, plus a bit more on the current Management Restructuring process.

French Quarter Children's Water Play Area

Work was originally scheduled to be completed by 24 December 2015 but work-permit issues delayed the planned re-opening date until 19 January 2016. However construction is obviously overrunning considerably beyond that based on the photos taken on 23 January which show water piping is still being installed and they haven't even started on laying the flooring yet. The information that I'm hearing at the moment is pointing towards an opening date of around 29 February 2016.

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Riverside Ol' Man Island pool refurbishment

Work commenced on schedule on 11 January 2016 and the target completion date is still 4 March 2016. The work is mostly routine maintenance and perimeter fencing modifications. All of the through-route walkways, the children's playground and the fishing hole currently remain open, although letters recently sent out to guests indicate that some pathways may need to be temporarily closed during the work and the children's playground may also be affected at some point. There are no evening campfires at Riverside at the moment, but the French Quarter alternative is still available daily. A free shuttle service to French Quarter is in place, and the five quiet pools at Riverside are open as normal. The River Roost Lounge in the main building is opening a little earlier in the day than normal to compensate for Muddy Rivers being closed.

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Riverside Magnolia Terrace roofing work

The building 85 roofing work will be split into five phases, and is expected to run through until 15 July 2016. The first phase has already commenced, which comprises the whole of central section of the building. That section should come back into service on 26 February and then work will commence on each of the four outer 'wings' in turn.

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For more information and photos, see the Refurbishment News page.


Management Restructuring [Minor details updated 10 Feb]

A major reorganisation of the management structure at Port Orleans (and many other areas of Walt Disney World) is currently in progress, and some details are now starting to emerge. The following information is pieced together from multiple sources, but I'm sure there's more news still to come:

  • The current Port Orleans General Manager, Suzette Noble, will now become the General Manager for Port Orleans Riverside, while Port Orleans French Quarter will get its own General Manager (still to be announced).
  • "Proprietors" appears to be a newly-created level of management overseeing multiple areas such as guest service, front desk and recreation, reporting directly to each resort's General Manager. The current Guest Service Managers (Lon Rydberg at Riverside and Stefanie Shomper at French Quarter) have been promoted to this new role, while the original front desk/guest service management positions have been renamed as Guest Experience Managers, reporting to the Proprietors.
  • The former Food & Beverage managers, James Campbell and Matthew Vaché, will now take on additional overall responsibility for the Merchandise departments at Riverside and French Quarter respectively.
  • The exiting French Quarter Merchandising Manager has been transferred to the All Star Resorts as Duty Manager.
  • There will also be separate Executive Housekeepers at both properties instead of the current combined operation.
Good luck to everyone in their new roles - I suspect it's going to be a busy adjustment period!

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Walt Disney World Management Structure Reorganisation

Posted on Sunday 24th January 2016 by The Sassagoula Sentinel

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World is embarking on (yet another) reorganisation of its management infrastructure. The changes broadly relate to the organisation of management reporting structures, with departments now organised more by physical location rather than thematically. Reporter Sandra Pedicini writes:

"The reorganization will give general managers and executives authority over geographic locations – say, the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland – rather than traditional categories such as merchandise or food and beverage. The philosophy is to take a more holistic approach to management, focusing on the overall guest experience, Disney said."

Of particular interest to Port Orleans aficionados will be the element of the plan to assign each hotel its own individual General Manager, rather than the previous practice of one person overseeing several resorts. This may result in Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter becoming somewhat more autonomous than they have been in the past.

As I understand it at present, the current Port Orleans General Manager, Suzette Noble, will retain overall control of the Riverside resort, while a new General Manager (still to be announced) will be brought in to oversee French Quarter. There will also be some shake-ups in the way the various lines of business are managed, such as Recreation now coming under the overall local control of each resort's Guest Services manager (previously Recreation was a combined team) and the Food & Beverage managers at each resort will now incorporate Merchandise into their remit. Both resorts will also gain their own Executive Housekeepers, rather than having one large team covering both resorts. Whether or not this will alter the current policy of cast member roles sometimes being shared between the two resorts is still unclear, but Disney have announced that there will be no lay-offs as a result of these changes.

It seems unlikely that there will be any significant impact on the overall guest experience, at least in the short term, but perhaps giving French Quarter its own autonomy may result in more facilities being provided directly for guests staying there, rather than everything being shared with Riverside? And it surely can't escape the notice of an incoming General Manager that French Quarter is the only Disney Moderate Resort that doesn't currently operate its own table service restaurant in addition to a food court.

More changes will no doubt become apparent over the coming weeks, but to me this all vaguely smacks of someone in an executive position at Walt Disney World with too much time on their hands looking to "make their mark". Let's wait and see what happens, it could be an interesting year...

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