From Disney’s perspective, there is one resort, Port Orleans, and it has two sections: Riverside and The French Quarter. Functionally, that’s true. One big management system encompasses both sections, and there’s no size/amenity difference, in general, with the rooms.
Pragmatically, however, people do not book a room based on the number of Disney management systems, at least not when trying to decide which hotel to choose. Once they decide a moderate Disney hotel suits their wallet and their style, they want to know how each moderate hotel looks; how it feels; how they’d feel if staying there.
To misquote a description of Disney Hollywood Studios, The French Quarter is “the New Orleans that never was and always will be.” It’s prettier, cleaner, and faker, but it’s New Orleans through and through. It has a jazz feel from the music to the décor. It has brick streets and wrought iron balconies. If two buildings sit close together, it feels like a street in The Big Easy. If they sit farther apart, a Louisiana-French garden covers the span. Colors are bright without tipping over into gaudy, with the possible exception of the pool and food court that sport a Mardi Gras theme. (And gaudy, of course, defines Mardi Gras.)
Confusion clear-up for returning guests: At one time, “Port Orleans” referred only to The French Quarter. Today, Port Orleans includes both The French Quarter and Riverside. Confused? There’s more: Riverside, pre-2001, was called Dixie Landings.
Who should stay here
If you like jazz, this is a gimmie. Of all the moderate resorts, it’s also the most compact, which makes it easier for walking to the food court, store, or pool. In general, Disney spreads out rooms in the other moderate resorts to make the complex feel spacious and to make guest rooms seem private. In those cases, a bus circles and stops multiple times to pick people up; but some rooms are so far from the central restaurants, arcades, etc., that guests would rather wait for one of the connecting busses than hoof it.
Kids probably won’t appreciate the jazz theme, but the pool is centered by a giant sea serpent. His coils create bridges and swimmers can slide down his tongue. Kids will also like the giant Mardi Gras figures in the food court and near the pool.
Who shouldn’t stay here
Port Orleans has a fine food court, but it’s still a food court. The sit-down restaurant closed when Port Orleans got sucked into the bigger Port Orleans/Riverside reorganization. Guests seeking a nearby restaurant must hike or boat to Riverside – up to 20 minutes – or take a boat to Downtown Disney. Those who wish to get somewhere quickly may find the bus system frustrating. (See “Transportation.”)
Only bus transportation connects The French Quarter with everything else on Disney property with one exception: Both The French Quarter and Riverside sit on the Sassagoula River. (Yeah, it’s really just a canal created by Disney, but ask any of the boat captains about the river’s history. It’s a tall tale worthy of Mark Twain, and that’s a compliment.) In addition to Riverside, the boat connects to Downtown Disney, about a 15-minute trip.
Busses stop often, but most theme park busses also serve three depots at Riverside. Depending on direction and the time it takes more guests to board, it could be another 15 minutes before you leave the Port Orleans resort area.
Questions to ask when booking
Disney won’t guarantee a specific room but generally honors requests. Parents may try for a room overlooking the pool, while less aquatic-inclined adults should request space close to the food court yet with a view of a garden. (Note that Disney charges different rates based on the view, however.) While a bit farther from the central services, many guests try to get a room facing the Sassagoula River.